By Emily Stephenson
Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Monday accused rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich of desperate collusion for coordinating efforts in three upcoming state primary elections to block him from winning the party’s nomination.
The real estate mogul and reality television personality responded to the unusual tactic by saying it was “sad” that the two fellow Republicans had to team up to try to defeat him.
“Collusion is often illegal in many other industries and yet these two Washington insiders have had to revert to collusion in order to stay alive,” Trump said in a statement.
The Cruz and Kasich campaigns on Sunday night announced a deal to concentrate their efforts and resources in state contests where each has a better shot. Cruz will focus on beating Trump in Indiana’s May 3 primary without competition from Kasich, while Cruz will stand aside in favour of Kasich in Oregon’s May 17 primary and New Mexico’s June 7 contest.
Cruz, a US senator from Texas, and Kasich, Ohio’s governor, hope their efforts will weaken Trump in those states and keep him from securing the 1,237 delegates he needs to claim the nomination before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.
The deal was announced as a handful of mid-Atlantic states prepared for primary elections on Tuesday.
In a campaign appearance in Indiana, Cruz said that if Trump is the Republican nominee, Democrat Hillary Clinton is assured victory in the Nov 8 presidential election.
“I think that is a decision, an allocation of resources that makes a lot of sense and it’s devoted to the principle of beating Hillary Clinton,” Cruz said.
“I don’t doubt that Donald Trump is going to scream and yell and curse and insult and probably cry and whine some as well. That has been Donald’s pattern.”
Kasich, campaigning in Philadelphia, said on Monday the strategy was a way for him to save money by not campaigning in certain areas.
“So what? What’s the big deal?” Kasich said. “I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources. We have limited resources.”
Trump faces a tough path to earn the 1,237 delegates needed to lock up the nomination before the convention.
A candidate who wins a state contest sometimes still must win over delegates who often are allocated at separate events. Republicans will pick their delegates in at least four states this weekend, including Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona and Virginia.
Trump called the Cruz-Kasich deal “a horrible act of desperation, from two campaigns who have totally failed” and said it bolstered his contention that the Republican system for choosing delegates is rigged against him. Party officials have said the rules have long been known.
Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer said that every campaign has to run its own strategy.
“That’s up to them to decide what alliances are good or what kind of strategies they want to employ heading up to Cleveland,” Spicer said Monday on MSNBC.
If no candidate has enough support on the first vote at the national convention, many delegates can switch to another candidate on subsequent ballots.
While some groups opposing Trump welcomed the Cruz-Kasich pact, other political strategists questioned whether the deal came too late.