Ruth: Desperate times for desperate Republicans

Published Apr. 29, 2016

As arranged marriages go, this was destined to make Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? look like the most compatible union since Harry met Sally, where love means delaying saying "I'm withdrawing from the presidential race to spend more time with the family."

Two Republican presidential candidates, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, announced a dubious truce of sorts, agreeing to step aside for one another in various states in an effort to blunt Donald Trump's Trail of Fears. Iago and Othello were more reliable allies.

According to the deal, Kasich would withdraw from campaigning in Indiana, where he apparently has locked down a solid, ironclad third place. Cruz agreed not to butt into New Mexico and Oregon, where the senator is polling somewhere between "Who cares?" and "Wait, wait don't tell me." What might we call this detente? A Pact of Squeal?

In theory, these two chaps are betting that by selectively retreating, their supporters will flock like rabid Beyonce fans to either Cruz or Kasich in Indiana, New Mexico and/or Oregon, thereby preventing Trump from getting the required 1,237 delegates to clinch the Republican presidential nomination. Talk about the DREAM Act.

Isn't this a bit like Albania and Burkina Faso plotting to forge a strategic alliance to run away in the delusional belief they'll be able to thwart the Game of Thrones' Ramsay Bolton's perverse lust for power in Westeros?

A presidential campaign is a national chess match. These guys are playing Go Fish — with crossed fingers.

Perhaps this chicanery would have made sense a few months ago. But with only 10 primaries left and the human koi gobbling up delegates like Pac-Man, the Cruz/Kasich Axis of Weasel might appear way too little, way too late to have much impact beyond prompting more taunts from Trump in the general direction of the Cruz/Kasich Treaty of Buh-Bye.

Or think of it this way — two guys who have been steadily losing to Trump have agreed to clear the decks for each other to lose some more to the Machiavelli of Mar-a-Lago. There! That ought to teach Trump a lesson.

You could argue this footsie-wootsie on the stump was always doomed to implode. If you're Kasich, with less political leverage than Mayberry's Mayor Pike, you had to have been a bit circumspect about getting into bed with a politician who holds the unique distinction of being the most reviled member of the U.S. Senate — and that's just the view of his fellow Republicans.

So it wasn't long after Cruz crowed about Kasich deciding to "pull out of Indiana to give us a head-to-head contest with Donald Trump" that the Ohio governor showed up for a fundraising event in Indianapolis and met with Gov. Mike Pence and other state Republican figures. Kasich just happened to be in the neighborhood.

But Cruz wasn't done in demonstrating his finely honed sense of political acumen. In a deft move to capture the national news cycle for a good two or three hours, the senator boldly announced he was naming former foe Carly Fiorina to serve as his running mate.

No doubt Fiorina's value to the Cruz camp is the pivotal single delegate she won in her landslide seventh-place finish in the Iowa caucuses. There was also some speculation that she despises Trump as a boorish, bullying sexist. Everyone take a number on that score. Forget Go Fish. This was the campaign equivalent of 52 Pick-Up.

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Kasich better get going if he has any hope of keeping up with the relentless Cruz political machine, perhaps by naming Rick Santorum, who barely registered a pulse in Iowa, to be his No. 2. And, of course, Mike Huckabee, Jim Gilmore and George Pataki are tanned, rested and ready.

It has come down to this. With just a little over a month to go in this primary season, two gasping campaigns are forging tenuous partnerships that will likely result in accomplishing nothing.

And somehow Cruz has alighted on the notion that by tapping a monumentally failed candidate with zero legislative experience, no discernible geographic value and suspect retail political skills to be his running mate, this will bring a groundswell of support to his campaign to make up a more than 400-delegate deficit.

Forget the fight for Westeros. This is a pitched-battle Game of Twilight Zones.