With only two non-Trump candidates remaining in what began as 17 person Republican field, Ted Cruz is giving fellow survivor John Kasich what amounts to be the silent treatment
The strategy reflects the campaign's view that the Ohio Governor is a distraction in what they see as a two-man race between Trump and Cruz. The Texas Senator has no plans to go after Kasich's record on issues such has gun control, Ohio's Medicaid expansion, or immigration.
Cruz's "focus is on drawing a contrast with Donald Trump for the nomination and with Hillary Clinton for the general election. That's where I have been focused. That's where I intend to continue focusing," the candidate told CBS News.
During an election night speech Tuesday night, Cruz spoke glowingly about Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who exited the race after a stinging defeat in Florida.
"Marco's story, his passion inspires me. Marco can paint a picture, can weave a tapestry of the promise of America like nobody else," Cruz said before making an overture to Rubio's supporters, "to those who supported Marco, who worked so hard, we welcome you with open arms." Unmentioned in the Texan's speech was Kasich, who won a major victory against Trump in his home state of Ohio.
"I certainly congratulate John Kasich on winning his home state. That was a good victory in his home state," Cruz told CBS News later, while reiterating that it was mathematically impossible for Kasich to win 1237 delegates. He did, however, say that Kasich could "bleed off just enough votes" to allow Trump to win.
"Kasich, he's going to be very helpful to Donald," said Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe. "It does not help us."
Even before the election results were in, Roe was telling reporters that they wouldn't be engaging with the Ohio Governor, saying "It'd be a long move for us to start engaging with John Kasich." Asked if there were any pressure points for Kasich to get out after winning Ohio, Roe replied, "Not outside of the calculator."
Other Cruz advisors expressed frustration and annoyance with Kasich's continued presence in the race despite just winning one state. When asked how much of a problem Kasich was, Cruz campaign chief strategist Jason Johnson said, "You'd have to ask him how much a problem he is that he's running just cause he has a dream of running for President but he has no chance of becoming the nominee."
He noted, "Kasich's math is difficult to clinch, as in it's impossible. We have many, many numbers to add up to get to where we need to go but there are enough delegates for us to get there."
"The truth of the matter is any delegates John Kasich earns going forward is a wasted delegate because he can't get 1237," he argued.
The Cruz campaign's decision to largely ignore Kasich is not for a lack of material given his vote as a member of Congress to support President Clinton's 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio as governor.
Just over two weeks ago, Cruz was hammering Trump and Rubio on the issue of gun control. "Do you know that my two leading competitors have both supported banning guns?" Cruz asked an audience in Perry, Georgia. "Donald Trump explicitly supported Bill Clinton legislation to ban some of the most popular firearms in America. He thought it was a great idea to prohibit firearms that many of us here own."
Digging into Rubio's early record as a city councilman in West Miami, Cruz noted that the Floridian, "voted to ban guns in public parks."
"He has an interesting record that's gone without examination to this point in time," Johnson said of Kasich's past positions. But when pressed what it would take for Cruz to go after Kasich he responded, "What will probably have to happen will never happen, and that's for him to be a viable candidate for the nomination."
"Unless we get bored," he joked.