What the Cruz-Kasich Plan to Stop Trump Means for Their Political Brands

Trump Calls It 'Collusion' -- and That's Going to Stick

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What are we to make of the news that Ted Cruz and John Kasich are teaming up to attempt to stop Donald Trump -- and what does it mean for their campaigns and their political brands? As The New York Times reports,

Senator Ted Cruz and Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio have agreed to coordinate in future primary contests in a last-ditch effort to deny Donald J. Trump the Republican presidential nomination, with each candidate standing aside in certain states amid growing concerns that Mr. Trump cannot otherwise be stopped.

The plan, according to a statement from Cruz's campaign manager, Jeff Roe, is to focus on winning Indiana "and in turn clear the path for Governor Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico." According to a statement from Kasich's chief strategist, John Weaver, the Kasich campaign will focus on states in the West and "give the Cruz campaign a clear path in Indiana."

Hmmm. Let's turn to noted marketing expert Donald Trump for his take on this plan. From Twitter, late Sunday night:

It's worth noting that while Trump loves trotting out his nickname for Cruz, "Lyin' Ted," his label for Kasich, "1 in 38 Kasich," is a bit more tentative. In fact, he felt the need to explain it in his next tweet:

The Trump campaign also released an extended statement from the candidate that revises the win-loss count. It begins,

It is sad that two grown politicians have to collude against one person who has only been a politician for ten months in order to try and stop that person from getting the Republican nomination.

Senator Cruz has done very poorly and after his New York performance, which was a total disaster, he is in free fall and as everyone has seen, he does not react well under pressure. Also, approximately 80% of the Republican Party is against him. Governor Kasich, who has only won 1 state out of 41, in other words, he is 1 for 41 and he is not even doing as well as other candidates who could have stubbornly stayed in the race like him but chose not to do so.... 85% of Republican voters are against Kasich.

Trump also repeated his overall view of the Cruz-Kasich plan, adding, "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."

Donald Trump isn't the only one questioning the plan. Slate's Josh Voorhees points out that the Cruz-Kasich alliance "does not extend to any of the other 13 remaining primaries, including the five in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic set for this Tuesday, or the delegate-rich contest in California on the final day of the GOP primary season in June." The Washington Post's Philip Bump notes that "the math is much trickier than simply handing one state to Cruz and another to Kasich."

But let's circle back to the one-word label that Trump, a murder-by-nickname enthusiast, has slapped on it: collusion.

That's gonna stick.

The Cruz-Kasich plan is, essentially, an agreement by two political animals to take on the un-politician by cranking up the politics.

Or as The Guardian's Jeb Lund puts it, "Donald Trump has spent the last two weeks successfully castigating the Republican delegate process as a rigged game. His opponents' brightest idea was to jointly announce their plans to rig even more. That is a kind of plan. Then again, so is burning down your house to collect the insurance money."

Donald, you're obviously sticking with "Lyin' Ted," but your nickname for his new buddy John frankly needs some work.

Have you thought of going with "Colludin' Kasich"?

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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