There's a new theory going around that John Kasich should drop out of the race to help Ted Cruz beat Donald Trump.
While it sounds nice for the #NeverTrump crowd, it's wrong for four reasons.
1) No One Can “Beat” Trump
To win the Republican nomination outright requires a majority of delegates to the national convention, making the magic number 1,237.
After Tuesday's primaries in Utah and Arizona, the math is formidably in Trump's favor.
Kasich's ability to win the nomination outright has been mathematically eliminated, with Cruz teetering on the same result.
The Texas Republican needs more than 80% of the remaining delegates to lock up the nomination. As Kasich adviser John Weaver told Independent Journal Review, Cruz wouldn't be able to capture all of those delegates:
“even if Donald Trump was put in an insane asylum”
The mission is for Cruz and Kasich to deny Trump a majority of delegates, forcing an open convention in July. To stop that, Trump needs to unify more of the party around his campaign.
But if Cruz or Kasich pick up steam, Trump will end up just shy of a majority of delegates by convention time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
2) Trump Benefits Most if Anyone Else Drops Out
There's a idea running through conservative politics that one candidate will be able to consolidate the anti-Trump votes and defeat The Donald.
In reality, the math does not support that premise. A poll released Wednesday showed that Trump would gain support if either Cruz or Kasich dropped out.
Rather than building the anti-Trump coalition, a two-man race would put Trump closer to the 50% mark that would effectively end the race.
Additionally, in the week after Marco Rubio left the GOP race, Trump's numbers went up more than any other candidate. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows this:
Former Mitt Romney adviser Stuart Stevens told Independent Journal Review earlier this month:
“Giving voters more choices makes it easier. If Kasich was out of the race, would Trump be doing better? Yes”
Stevens, who was speaking before Rubio exited the race on March 15th, added:
“A hypothetical world in which Cruz wins 55% and Trump gets 45% ... is more favorable for Trump than a world in which Trump gets 40 delegates and Cruz gets 35 and Rubio gets 20.”
3) Kasich is Far More Competitive Than Cruz in Many Remaining States
Ted Cruz was a clear second to Donald Trump for the first half of the race, securing more than three times as many delegates as Kasich.
Cruz's chances, as Weaver told Independent Journal Review, aren't as rosy on the West Coast and in New England:
“Are you gonna tell me that Ted Cruz is going to do well in Rhode Island, or Delaware, or Manhattan, or Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington?”
The 17 states left to vote are red in the map below:
Cruz trails Trump badly in polls conducted in New York and New Jersey, and can be expected to struggle in Rhode Island and Connecticut. Kasich is far more competitive with Trump in Pennsylvania, according to the latest poll from the Keystone State.
Those five states account for 264 delegates, and a Cruz-v-Trump race would likely sacrifice the lion’s share of those delegates to The Donald.
While there is a chance that Kasich remaining in the race would make Cruz wins more difficult in states like Montana, Nebraska and New Mexico, the delegate math suggests it’s worth the risk. Kasich's victories would reduce the margin of Trump wins in the Northeast.
4) It's Got to Be a Team Effort
Stevens had more to say about how the GOP race got here, which I detailed in my weekly podcast, Trail Mix 2016:
What probably best described the current state of the race was his “running out of gas” analogy:
“It's like they're in a car and they're trying to drive 100 miles and they've got 20 miles left of gas and they're debating whether or not they should stop for gas.”
Republicans spent last summer denying Trump's potential. Then last fall, they scrambled to push each other out to be Trump's sole competitor. Finally, the first part of 2016 left the GOP reeling, as Trump racked up win after win.
Now that Trump is within sight of the nomination, Cruz and Kasich face a choice. They can keep going after each other, as they did before the March 15th primaries, or they can train all their firepower on turning out voters.
Stevens, who is not affiliated with a campaign this cycle, promotes the latter approach, particularly when it comes to states like California.
To stop Trump from running away with a clean nomination, the best option is for Cruz and Kasich to stay in the race all the way through July.