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Here's why Ted Cruz and John Kasich are not good conspirators

Job No. 1 for this alliance is to get Kasich voters to support Cruz in the Indiana primary. Yet the Ohio governor seems to think it's time for subtlety on that point.

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    In this March 10, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz (left) and John Kasich shake hands at the start of a presidential debate sponsored by CNN in Coral Gables, Fla.
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Ted Cruz and John Kasich don’t seem to be good at this conspiracy thing.

OK, “conspiracy” might be a bit harsh. “Collusion”, maybe? “Coordination?” Whatever it is, they’re not operating as a team. If anything their attempt at a Trump-stopping counter block appears to be backfiring.

First off, Kasich is hedging. Under the deal announced Sunday night, the Ohio governor is supposed to stand down in Indiana, giving Cruz a clearer shot at beating Trump. But it seems as if Kasich believes that means only that he must stop actively campaigning in the Hoosier State. He’s not urging his Indiana supporters to vote strategically and back Cruz.

“I’m not telling anybody anything in Indiana because I’m not campaigning in Indiana. . . . Voters are smart enough to figure out what they want to do,” Kasich said Tuesday during an appearance on NBC’s “Today.”

Kasich is still attending a fundraiser in Indiana on Tuesday, and he’s supposed to meet with top state GOP officials, including Gov. Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, the Cruz campaign does not appear any more enthusiastic about fulfilling its end of the bargain – pulling out of Oregon and New Mexico to give Kasich a better shot in the West.

Cruz officials have privately told campaign surrogates to similarly refrain from endorsing tactical voting on the part of the Texas senator’s supporters. “We never tell voters who to vote for. We’re simply letting folks know where we will be focusing our time and resources,” said talking points dispatched from Cruz HQ.

Here’s the basic problem: unless Kasich and Cruz are in this together, and they march in front of the cameras and urge their voters in Indiana (Kasich) and Oregon and New Mexico (Cruz) to vote for the other guy, and they make a big deal out of it – because otherwise Trump is going to be the nominee – this deal means very little.

This is not a time for subtlety. Kasich and Cruz are pretty different candidates, and it is going to be difficult to get the supporters of one to cast a ballot for the other. That’s if the voters in question even know the deal exists.

Indiana votes in seven days. It could be the key to the entire GOP nomination. Polls show it may be close. If Trump loses there, his path to a winning total of 1,237 delegates becomes quite narrow. If he wins, it opens up, and the second half of the Kasich-Cruz deal becomes close to irrelevant.

And if Trump wins Indiana despite the last-minute Cruz-Kasich alliance, it might deflate the entire #NeverTrump movement. Trump’s nomination could begin to seem inevitable.

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