Cruz-Kasich alliance a last attempt to stop Trump momentum?

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 25, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you collude in business or if you collude in the stock market, they put you in jail. But in politics, because it's a rigged system, because it's a corrupt enterprise, in politics you are allowed to collude. So they colluded, and actually I was happy, because it shows how weak they are.

GOV. JOHN KASICH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't see this as a big deal other than the fact I'm not going to spend resources in Indiana and he's not going to spend in other places. So what? What's the big deal? I've never told them not to vote for me. They ought to vote for me. But I'm not over there campaigning and spending resources.

SEN. TED CRUZ, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think that is a decision, allocation of resources, that makes a lot of sense, and it's devoted to the principle of beating Hillary Clinton in November and turning this country around.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: John Kasich doesn't talk about it the same way Ted Cruz talks about it, but it is a deal apparently between the two campaigns that Kasich is not going to campaign or spend money in Indiana so Cruz can have a one-on- one shot, and Cruz is not going to campaign or spend money in New Mexico or Oregon so Kasich could have a one-on-one shot.

Here is why they are doing it. Take a look at three states tomorrow. The Real Clear Politics average of polls, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump up big in Pennsylvania. Connecticut, the average there, even bigger over John Kasich in second. And Maryland, Donald Trump up big over Kasich and Cruz. Those are three states of the five tomorrow.

Let's bring in our panel: Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. OK, Mara, does this work?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I don't think it's really going to work. I think Donald Trump is on track to get the delegates he needs, not necessarily 1,237, but to get the delegates he needs to get the nomination on the first ballot.

BAIER: What number is that?

LIASSON: I think it's in the 1,100-ish. And I think if he shows up in Cleveland with around 1,100 or above and he's hundreds of delegates above Ted Cruz, I think you are going to see delegates come his way. I think he will have to get 1,237 on the first ballot, but I think there's a way to do that for him.

We have seen in poll after poll big majorities of Republican voters say they think the nominee should be the candidate with the most delegates, not necessarily 1,237. And what's going to happen tomorrow is, I think, he'll sweep the Acela corridor primary, and every time he does that, even New York where everybody knew he was going to win, it's just another psychological notch that tells the never-Trump people that they don't have much of a chance of stopping him.

BAIER: If you do the math, Steve, it seems like he could come up short. He's had I guess 58 percent, almost 60 percent of the remaining delegates to get to 1,237. But still, momentum mean a lot.

STEVE HAYES, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Momentum can mean a lot. It didn't mean much to Cruz after Wisconsin. But I think if you look at the victory in New York and you couple that with the polling that we've seen in recent days, it certainly looks like Trump is picking up steam, certainly not losing steam. I think if you take the public polling we have seen in Indiana and beyond the polls, the states that are coming up tomorrow, and Indiana, California most recently, he looks like he could be on track to get to 1,237. I think if he's at 1,100 there's a big fight.

LIASSON: You think it has to be higher?

HAYES: I think it has to be considerably higher. Look, I think there are Republicans who would like to fight if he's at 1,236, and I think they have every right to fight if he's at 1,236. But for practical purposes, you're seeing a lot of Republicans who have been anti-Trump or sounded like they were in the never-Trump camp who are backing off of that a little bit. You are seeing sort of this normalization of Trump with his hiring of Paul Manafort, some of these other folks. And the more that he wins, the more that that happens, and the more it weakens the never Trump -- I don't think it weakens their argument substantively, but the more that it makes their cause difficult.

BAIER: I heard a lot of people talking about this today, Charles. And some said, wow, it's kind of late.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's extremely late. Had they worked this out a month or two ago where they each go one-on-one, Trump has said I want to go one-on-one with Cruz. Well, he'll get his chance in Indiana. But we're really at a point where this is the endgame. Earl Weaver once said momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher, meaning there is no momentum. It depends where you are tomorrow.

The thing is there's no tomorrow, really. This is a last attempt to try to stop momentum. It means something. I think the result of the New York vote, 61 percent, I mean, a huge blowout. And if you get the five state sweep on Tuesday, you have got a candidate on a toll coming into Cleveland. If he's on a roll, I think Mara is right. He could be 50 away, maybe even 100 away, and there will be a sense that the people want him, you have to go with the people. And that's what the momentum will mean.

This can work to the extent if he stopped in Indiana, if Cruz is strong enough to do that, that could have a psychological effect. I think everybody says it's all about numbers and numbers. No. It's about what the sense is, what the people want in a broad sense. And if you stop them in one place or if you do in California, then I think you can have a fight on the floor that looks like it is a legitimate fight.

BAIER: But Indiana is the next big moment in this race, fair to say?

LIASSON: Fair to say. And I think that Cruz and Kasich, if they want to stop Trump were smart to try to do this. The question for Indiana is can Cruz replicate what happened in Wisconsin? In Wisconsin you had a pretty unusual situation. You had a governor. You had a well-respected speaker who while he didn't endorse it was pretty clear where he was at. You had all these talk show hosts lined up against Trump. You had a lot of forces against him. I don't know if that's going to be the same thing in Indiana.

KRAUTHAMMER: And Trump made the tactical mistake of running against the governor, not understanding quite how popular he is.

BAIER: The latest poll in Indiana, and there's not a lot of polling in Indiana, is the FOX poll on Friday which had Trump up seven. You take Kasich out and it's a two-point lead for Trump.

HAYES: I think it was likely to be even if this deal never happened, I think it was likely to be tighter than that. Indiana, there are a lot of reasons to believe Indiana could be a friendly state to Ted Cruz.

But look, it is the case that the people will have to a certain extent spoken if Trump heads into the delegation, into the convention with the most delegates. It's also the case that 60 plus percent of Republicans haven't voted for Trump, and of the group, a significant number, I would argue a plurality of the people who haven't voted for Trump, have said they are never going to vote for Trump, they are not going to vote for him, period. That is a huge problem for the Republican Party going forward.

BAIER: But I guess their argument is that no single candidate gets more than Trump.

HAYES: It's a totally fair argument. It's a perfectly logical argument. We have to be pretty careful. There are a lot of people, particularly Trump supporters, who threw around the phrase "the people" as if everybody has spoken and this is an overwhelming win. There are huge numbers of people who don't support Trump and will not support Trump in Cleveland.

LIASSON: Even if the choice is Hillary Clinton?

HAYES: Absolutely. LIASSON: You think they are going to stick to their guns?

HAYES: This is not a normal election. Let's put it that way.

BAIER: On this issue let's take a listen to one of the Koch brothers this weekend on this issue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You couldn't see yourself supporting Hillary Clinton, could you?

CHARLES KOCH, KOCH INDUSTRIES: Well, her -- we would have to believe her actions would be quite different than her rhetoric. Let me put it that way. Some of the Republican candidates, before we could support them we would have to believe their actions would be quite different from the rhetoric we have heard so far.


BAIER: Well, that kicked up a storm. Hillary Clinton said she didn't want money from the Koch brothers at all.

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm sure if the Koch's offered money anonymously and untraceably, she would probably say yes. But she can't do it in public.

With the Koch brothers, it's not as shocking as people think. They are rather libertarian in their thinking. Trump would be anathema to them. He is a big government guy. Cruz, who is small government guy, nonetheless is very, very anti-libertarian in a sense on social issues. So for them it's a dilemma.

If you hear them, however, saying that they could actually not support the top two, I think that reinforces what Steve is saying. There are a lot of Republicans who will stay home or write in or do something else. And that is a threat, which is why I think this idea of the people's choice is a matter of perception. I'm not saying I defend that argument. I think you have to win a majority. But nonetheless it will be seen as illegitimate if it's taken away when he's that close.

BAIER: But to Mara's point, the unifying figure in the Republican race is Hillary Clinton.

HAYES: There is no unifying figure in the Republican race. Hillary Clinton will be unifying to a certain extent. She can't overcome what Donald Trump is and has done for many Republican voters.

LIASSON: If you listen to the focus groups, the Wal-Mart moms, or the ones Peter Hart has done with Republican leaning women, they all say they -- oh, they dismiss the things Donald Trump says. I think you are going to find a lot of people coming around to Trump.

HAYES: The exit polls pretty consistently show that people who say they would strongly consider a third party candidate if it were a Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump head-to-head matchup, a number between 35, in one state is 43 percent. You can't just shrug that off. There are people who object to Trump both on ideological grounds, as Charles says he's big government, and on principled grounds. They think he's not a man of integrity or character. Those people are not going to change their minds.

BAIER: We will see tomorrow how things stacks up.

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