What does this mean? Well, it means several things:
i) They are both worried that Trump can get enough delegates to be within striking distance of a majority (especially if one includes the unbound delegates and their potential for getting Trump over the hump). Trump’s confidence is warranted.
ii) Perception is as important as reality. Winning states, as well as delegates, is important for the case of stopping Trump. Trump is set to win every state until Indiana. That’s a lot of momentum.
iii) The total number of Cruz delegates is important but less important than Trump getting fewer delegates than Cruz plus two or three others (including Kasich).
iv) Kasich needs some states and more delegates to maximize his leverage at a convention to make sure he is on the ticket. Cruz is in no place to name terms with Kasich anyway and giving him some delegates and getting above Rubio’s number makes it easier to do a deal down the line
v) Cruz understands the limits of his coalition with more moderate states like Oregon and New Mexico. This is interesting in terms of Cruz’s strategy moving forward. His largest priority is stopping Trump and it matters less how he does it as the second-largest delegate haul by far.
vi) This doesn’t limit Kasich’s ability to maneuver. Kasich wouldn’t win Indiana anyway, he gets nothing if Trump wins a majority, and being the swing delegate group allows him to extract the highest price from either Trump or Cruz. The tail might be able to wag two dogs.
vii) This interrupts Trump’s chance to turn attention to the General Election match-up against Hillary that I wrote about previously. As Bernie’s bid consumes less press attention, Cruz and Kasich needs to preserve the press’s primary attention on the nomination and not start talking about Trump/Hillary as a fait accompli.
viii) Cruz’s ability to do a deal with Kasich suggests an ability to see electoral reality and play nice with the establishment in the future.
ix) Important to do now as ballots being filled in soon.
x) Will important surrogates follow Cruz’s lead? Will, say, an Art Robinson back Kasich under Cruz’s direction? Or might some Cruz voters’ second choice be Trump? Clearly withdrawal helps Kasich above Trump, but to what relative extent compared to Trump’s gain?
xi) Someone close to Cruz’s campaign referred to Indiana as “Cruz’s Waterloo”. Cruz just underlined this. Indiana is somewhat like Wisconsin but lacks the talk radio and party establishment infrastructure. This is an important move to stop Cruz from falling short of a contested convention. Beggars can’t be Hoosiers?
a) Will Cruz’s big money backers lend Kasich the resources to run a ground campaign in Oregon and New Mexico? No point stepping aside if Kasich is going to get run over. Cruz leaving Oregon shouldn’t be like the chopper leaving Saigon. His campaign still needs to remain engaged.
b) Can the Cruz campaign lend data insights to Kasich in terms of persuadable voters/message feedback etc?
c) Will Cruz withdraw or actively ask voters to fill in their ballot for Kasich? This will speak to the campaign’s ability to deal with (x).