Would [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] have a better chance of stopping Donald Trump if John Kasich withdrew from the race and allowed the Texas senator to take The Donald on one-on-one? The little evidence we have suggests he would.
“Right now, Kasich’s role is really being a spoiler,” Cruz told CNN Wednesday. “Kasich benefits Donald Trump.”
Cruz’s essential argument is that he has earned the right to take on Trump one-on-one by winning far more states and far more delegates than Kasich. To date, Kasich has only won his home state of Ohio. He not only has no path to win the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot, it is hard to see how he can even do well enough to come into the Republican convention in July close to Cruz and Trump in the delegate count. All Kasich is doing by staying in the race, Team Cruz’s argument goes, is helping Trump by keeping the anti-Trump field fractured.
While it is near impossible for Cruz to achieve the 1,237 delegates necessary to win the Republican nomination on the first ballot either, he at least has a plausible path to come into the convention relatively close to Trump in the delegate count — even possibly ahead. But Team Cruz believes their prospects of success would increase significantly if Kasich exited the race and gave them a one-on-one match-up with Trump, where they don’t think Trump would be able to break 50 percent in most, if not all, states.
But that proposition depends on whether Kasich voters are more likely to support Cruz over Trump if the Ohio governor were to get out of the race. Unfortunately, there isn’t too much data on the question, but the little evidence that exists supports the idea that Kasich’s quixotic presence in the race is hindering Cruz’s efforts to take down Trump.
For instance, an Emerson College poll of Wisconsin’s April 5 primary released Wednesday showed Cruz with a narrow 36 percent to 35 percent lead over Trump, with Kasich in third place with 19 percent support. A press release accompanying the poll noted: “It appears that Kasich is pulling votes from Cruz as Kasich supporters find Cruz more favorable than Trump, 36% to 27%.”
A national Quinnipiac poll, also released Wednesday, found that 50 percent of Kasich’s supporters would go to Cruz if the Ohio governor exited the race, while just about 19 percent would go to Trump. (It is worth noting that Trump still maintained a significant lead nationally in the poll even with Kasich out.)
National polls aren’t exactly worth very much at this point in the Republican primary season, so the evidence that exists on the question at hand isn’t particularly compelling. When The Daily Caller asked the Cruz campaign if it had any other evidence that suggests Kasich’s continued presence in the race is hurting Cruz more than it is hurting Trump, spokeswoman Catherine Frazier replied that the campaign did not.
So while the little evidence that exists does show that Kasich’s continued presence in the race is hurting Cruz, it would help if there were many more polls of upcoming primary states to buttress the case. It’s possible that Kasich’s presence in the race helps Trump and hurts Cruz in every state, but it’s also possible that it helps Trump in some states and hurts him in others.