The Republican primary campaign seems to have essentially become a two-man race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. The campaign has become increasingly heated, but there is still the possibility that the two frontrunners may forge an alliance to secure the nomination with a Trump-Cruz unity ticket.
Many Republicans worry about the electability of both of the frontrunners since both have low approval ratings and lose to the Democrat candidates in current polling. Many of these Republicans would like another alternative, but John Kasich, the only other candidate still in the race, has long been mathematically eliminated from any possibility of winning an uncontested nomination at the Republican convention.
It is also unlikely that Kasich could assemble a large enough delegate coalition to win on a subsequent ballot as an establishment candidate. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that Republicans who do not belong to either the Cruz or the Trump camps could attempt to nominate an alternative candidate at the convention by persuading delegates directly. Such an attempt would not sit well with either Trump or Cruz or their supporters.
The easiest way for Cruz and Trump to defend against such an insurgent candidacy would be to work together. While neither candidate is likely to have enough delegates individually to clinch the nomination, together they control an overwhelming number of delegates. In fact, if their delegates are pooled, the pair already have more than the 1,237 delegates needed to nominate a candidate.
In the most likely scenario for a unity ticket, neither Trump nor Cruz would have enough delegates to be nominated on several successive ballots. Sensing a looming disaster, party establishment and moderates would put forth a new candidate to try to break the impasse and offer a more popular choice for the general election. As Cruz and Trump realize that their chances of winning the nomination are slipping away, they may decide that an alliance and partial victory is preferable to a total loss.
The idea of a Cruz-Trump ticket is not as outlandish as it sounds. The two men share a disdain for the party establishment and a harsh outlook on immigration. Both of these factors put them at odds with much of the rest of the party. They also share a base of support among Tea Party voters. In addition, both candidates have shown the ability to shift positions without alienating their supporters.
If you think a Trump-Cruz alliance is out of the question, don’t forget that the two have already had an alliance of sorts in the past. In fact, there were numerous reports of a Trump-Cruz “bro-mance” last fall. The two candidates professed admiration for each other up until the point when Cruz first edged ahead of Trump in the polls. The nonaggression pact was particularly striking because Cruz, known as a strong conservative, refrained from attacking Trump at a time when many other conservatives were calling Trump’s ideology, policies and even party membership into question. In fact, in the early days of the Trump campaign, Ted Cruz was the only Republican candidate who embraced Trump.
The biggest problem in getting Trump and Cruz together might be in deciding who gets to be at the top of the ticket. Both are strong personalities and both will have a strong position going into the convention. Trump is likely to lead on the first ballot, but many Trump delegates will probably shift their allegiance on subsequent ballots. Cruz performs better in polling and has a marginally better approval rating. Cruz also has more experience in government and foreign policy. Nevertheless, Trump is the top vote-getter.
Donald Trump has clearly given Cruz consideration as a potential running mate. Last November, when asked about a running mate, Trump answered, “Ted Cruz is now agreeing with me 100 percent” according to The Hill. Trump refused to rule out sharing the ticket with Cruz in February and rumors persisted into March that the two campaigns were talking about the possibility.
Ted Cruz recently told a Good Morning America audience in Vacaville, Calif. that “I have zero interest, whatsoever,” in being Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominee. He continued, “And there are a lot of reasons, but perhaps the simplest is, if Donald is the nominee, Hillary wins, Hillary wins by double digits and I don’t think there’s anything we can do to change that.”
Cruz did not, however, categorically say that he would refuse to be on a Trump ticket. He also did not say that he would refuse a Trump promise to nominate him to the Supreme Court as some have suggested. What’s more, Cruz did not deny that he might consider Trump as his vice presidential nominee.
The likelihood of a Trump-Cruz (or Cruz-Trump) ticket remains a long shot. It may be that there is now simply too much bad blood between the two campaigns to make peace. The candidates may decide that their chances are better individually than together.
Neither candidate has completely closed the door on working with the other. While it seems unlikely that either would reach out to the other, things could change quickly if the two men saw it in their own best interests to do so.