A misguided deal

lead_960The, uh, deal, if it is a deal, between candidates Ted Cruz and John Kasich, to cede territory to each other in an attempt to prevent Donald Trump from turning his almost certain plurality at the Republican Convention into a very possible majority will probably backfire.

For one thing, neither Cruz nor Kasich owns any voters. Cruz cannot give voters to Kasich in exchange for getting votes in return. Even if they endorsed each other in the affected states – and they haven’t done that – their voters would split between following the endorsement, voting for Trump, continuing to vote for their preferred candidate, or staying at home following their candidate’s abandonment of their state.

All Cruz and Kasich have done is agree to stop campaigning in key states – Kasich in Indiana and Cruz in New Mexico and Oregon – in order, possibly, to give a leg up to the other and maybe restrict Trump’s delegate total.

There are several “NeverTrump” campaigns which are urging people motivated principally be the desire to defeat Trump on the best way of voting in their states. That makes much more sense. There is a constituency for “NeverTrump” but people who are leaning towards voting Cruz or Kasich are not necessarily part of it.

That’s not to say that the campaigns didn’t do a sensible thing in concentrating on states where they have the best chance of winning. That, obviously, makes sense. Candidates do that all the time. Making and announcing a formal deal between them was the foolish thing. It plays into Trump’s risible claim that the system is “rigged” against him. It isn’t. It may not be a great system. It may not be a fair system. But it was not designed to exclude Trump, or any category of people in particular.

Trump’s positioning as the outsider is critical to his appeal. The idea that “establishment politicians” – a ridiculously broad term, if it includes Ted Cruz – are conspiring against him to deny “the people” their choice is a growing theme in his campaign. He is preparing for the possibility that he will lose the nomination. His style is to accuse his opponents of being “losers”. The worst thing in the world for Donald Trump is to be a loser. So he wants to be sure that if he loses he can claim the process was unfairly rigged against him.

Being “unfairly” defeated at the Convention might now be Trump’s best face-saving exit from the race. It saves him the embarrassment of a probable defeat in November. The complexity – and, in many ways, unfairness – of the primary process gives him a semi-credible basis to claim that his “rightful” victory is being “stolen”.

If he is defeated at the Convention, we can expect Trump and many of his supporters to walk out. A possible consequence of this is a Democratic victory in November, even if Trump doesn’t run as an independent. He will then be able to claim that the GOP lost because it treated him unfairly. (Of course, defeat is also a likely consequence of nominating Trump.)

Playing into the conspiracy narrative is a major mistake by the Cruz and Kasich teams. Those who were prepared to vote tactically against Trump would mostly have done so anyway. This way, Trump probably picks up support.



Quentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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