Cruz vs. Kasich: Race tightens in #NeverTrump contest

After the New York primary, neither Ted Cruz nor John Kasich can mathematically win the Republican nomination before the July convention. 

Paul Sancya/AP
Republican presidential candidates (l. to r.) Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich participated in a debate at the Fox Theatre in Detroit in March.

Tuesday's New York primary was a big day for Republican presidential candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich.

Governor Kasich came in second place with three votes: far behind Donald Trump's leading 89 delegates, but still ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas, who left New York's primary empty handed. 

"As Cruz has grasped for the #NeverTrump scepter, he's argued that he's [the] only candidate who can defeat Trump outright before the end of the primaries. Kasich has argued that neither he nor Cruz can pull it off," write The Washington Post's David Weigel and Josh Hicks. "The New York result was not so much a triumph for Kasich as for his argument, that Cruz would be unable to clinch the nomination if he was blown out in the late April primaries across the northeast." 

Mr. Cruz's campaign has repeatedly argued that it is mathematically impossible for Kasich to reach the winning number of delegates – 1,237 – before the Republican National Convention begins on July 18. And that's true. Even if Kasich won 100 percent of the remaining 15 states, winning 674 delegates, he would only amass 821 total delegates.

"Now you have three of them – is it 'for Trump' and a divided 'against Trump?' In that case, he's going to hurt us," Bob Vander Plaats, Cruz's national co-chair, tells CNN regarding Kasich. Mr. Plaats told Cruz not to bother with Kasich, and instead focus on clinching the winning 1,237 delegates: "It's just not worth your time. It's not worth your focus." 

But now, after the New York primary on Tuesday, the same holds true for Cruz. With 559 total delegates, even across-the-board wins in the remaining 15 states wouldn't grant him 1,237 delegates. So essentially, the best (and only) bet for both Cruz and Kasich is to hope for a contested convention in July. 

Besides having a common enemy, Kasich and Cruz don't have much in common. Kasich has served as an elected official for the state of Ohio for 27 years, spending four years in the Senate, 18 years in the House, and the past five years as governor. Cruz, by comparison, has only served as Texas Senator for the past three years. And when it comes to individual rights and matters of defense Cruz is generally more conservative than Kasich, with unwavering positions on individual rights and national defense.

And until now, neither campaign has really engineered a formal attack against the other. 

"Kasich and Cruz spend much of the campaign looking to strengthen their roots in their respective wings of the party," says CNN's Theodore Schleifer. "Kasich emerged from a squabble of center-right candidates to claim second place in New Hampshire, and… chose the Rust Belt as Cruz chose the South, staking his campaign on almost an entirely different terrain and sending them on wildly different routes to the GOP nomination." 

But as soon as Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida dropped out of the race last month, Kasich and Cruz began fighting for the anti-Trump vote, yet slightly differently, with Cruz looking to secure the nomination and Kasich looking for a contested convention. And now, after Cruz's chances of a typical nomination were killed by the New York primary, the two candidates' #NeverTrump goals converge once again. But this time they are the same: block Trump from reaching 1,237 delegates. 

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