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Can a Cruz-Kasich alliance stop Donald Trump?

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss the latest in politics, including whether Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich’s unlikely alliance against Donald Trump will work, the path forward for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s campaign and how Hillary Clinton is aiming to position herself as a contrast to Trump.

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    And on the eve of the Northeast primaries, now is the perfect time for Politics Monday.

    Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report joins me here. Tamara Keith of NPR is in Philadelphia.

    And we welcome both of you.

    So, Amy, let's pivot back to the headline on the Republican side. And that is Ted Cruz and John Kasich colluding, in Donald Trump's words, getting together to try to divide up the next few states, not tomorrow, but next week, to try to undercut Trump. Is this a smart thing on their part?

  • AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report:

    You know that saying, Judy, about the horse in the barn and closing the barn door after the horse has gone out?

    It feels as if this was a really smart strategy maybe a month ago, but now it's really too late. We have gone through 43 contests, and they're now deciding that by they should come together. We only have 13 left.

    Look, I think what we're in, we're in a phase right now that I'm calling momentum vs. math, and the reality is the math is working against Donald Trump in some ways. There is a way in which Kasich and Cruz could stop, prevent Donald Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates he needs to be the nominee or to get it on the very first ballot in Cleveland in July, but the momentum is with Donald Trump right now.

    He is expected to do very well tomorrow night in the primaries. He's going to come out with a head of steam. He's going to come out with a lot of votes and with the most delegates going into the convention. It's going to get harder and harder for the math argument to win over the momentum argument.


    Tamara, what do you think? Does this make sense? And we should point out that today, after this agreement was cut, you had John Kasich saying, well, I still expect people in Indiana to vote for me.


    Right. So it's not clear how strong this agreement really is. In some ways, it might just be a Bat Signal to the super PACs to say, hey, super PACs, put your emphasis over here, put your emphasis over there.

    In California, I know that the never Trump movement or — well, movement may not be the right word, but the people working on the never Trump campaign are going to be going congressional district by congressional district very soon, telling voters directly which way, which candidate they think they should vote for if they want to have the best chance to stop Trump, congressional district by congressional district, because that's the way delegates are allocated.

    But it's really not clear whether in California or Indiana or New Mexico or Oregon whether this is really, truly going to work, or whether Donald Trump already has such a prohibitive lead.


    Amy, it does seem to play into Donald Trump's argument, the one he's been making for weeks now, that the system is rigged.


    Absolutely. Absolutely.



    Here, his two main opponents are saying let's get together to deny him delegates.


    You could not have written the script better for Donald Trump. He's saying the establishment is against me, the system is rigged against me.

    And then his two opponents go, yes, it kind of is, we're going to do whatever we can to prevent you from getting the needed number of delegates before we get to the convention.

    So it only further plays into this momentum argument that I made before. Plus, if you look at the polling that's been coming out in these last few days asking about Republican voters, how do you feel about a contested convention, what if the candidate with the most votes, the most delegates doesn't get the nomination, right now, 38 percent of Republicans say they would be — it will be acceptable to them if the person with the most delegates lost, didn't have the majority, but came in, but then lost the nomination.

    And most of those are Trump supporters, but a good chunk, probably 45 percent or 46 percent of those people, saying it would be unacceptable for Trump not to win or the person with the most votes not to win are Cruz voters.


    A sense of fairness at some point.


    Exactly. Exactly.


    But, Tamara, meanwhile — I will just mention this quickly — Ted Cruz's camp put out the word today that he's already got a short list of vice presidential running mate possibilities.


    Well, this is crazy times. And you don't know what's going to happen with the Republican Convention, a possible contested convention.

    And so it seems that candidates could potentially be trying to do things to help themselves look more like they're running for president, like they could be the nominee. Having a short list for vice president, even though you're way, way, way behind in the delegate count, could be part of that.


    Amy, over on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders has in the last few days started to talk about what he has been able to get Hillary Clinton to shift, I guess, in terms of what she believes in and what she will push for.

    He started talking, I guess, on Friday to Andrea Mitchell on NBC about looking at what Clinton will do with her platform at the convention. That's a shift for him, isn't it?



    Yes, we have already seen a shift in his language about, we're going to take this all the way to the convention floor, to, well, we're going to take this all the way to June, which is the last primary.

    But, look, when I talked about math and momentum on the Republican side, it's happening on the Democratic side, too. Math is on Hillary Clinton's side, but the momentum is on Bernie Sanders' side. He continues to do better and better in national polling. His approval rating numbers are much better than hers.

    In fact, it's quite remarkable that she's going to have a very good night Tuesday, likely be close enough to sort of wrap this thing up if she does as well as the polls are showing, and yet her overall negative ratings among all voters has really skyrocketed since the beginning of this campaign.

    So he's done two things. I think the debate within the Democratic Party has shifted her focus in some ways a little more to the left, but it's also taken a big toll on her standing with all voters.


    Tamara, how are you reading that in talking to the Clinton people? How are they dealing with this right now?


    They're out with a new ad today that is running in some of the states that will be voting tomorrow that is a very positive campaign ad. It shows Hillary Clinton being very human, engaging with people, including Sandra Bland's mother, and really just giving people hugs.

    And it's a very human ad and it's about love and kindness. And, really, they're turning toward the general election with that ad, trying to paint an opposing vision to that of Donald Trump and his negativity.

    Donald Trump today again going after his opponents, saying that John Kasich is disgusting when he eats. So Clinton is trying to paint that contrast that she thinks, that her campaign thinks will smooth over a lot of the challenges that she may be having in this primary.


    Of course, Sandra Bland the young African-American woman who died in her jail cell in Texas.

    Very quickly, Amy, Charles Koch, the billionaire conservative who has been giving a lot of money to Republicans, hinting or saying that he would even consider Clinton, although he said she would have to shift some positions.

    That's a change.



    I think this shows how splintered the Republican establishment is on so many different levels, even though he's sort of the anti-establishment. And it also goes to show how much focus I think we're going to see from the donor class on races that aren't the presidential.

    A lot more money, I think, is going to get spent at the down-ballot level to protect Republicans in the Senate and the House more so that — and, P.S., Hillary Clinton doesn't want Charles Koch's money or his endorsement, as you very well know. That would play right into the hands not only of Bernie Sanders, but her detractors who think she's too close to big money interests.


    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, thank you both.


    You're welcome.

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