Ted Cruz and Donald Trump don't agree on much lately, but the two GOP presidential candidates are in accord on one thing — it's time for Ohio Gov. John Kasich to get out of the race.
NBC News was the first to report a quasi-alliance between the two men, who are typically at odds. But NBC reports aides from their campaigns are now working together to block Kasich from even being an option for delegates at the Republican National Convention this summer in Cleveland.
"Both campaigns have the same goal. We both see there is no path for Kasich to get nominated without massive rules changes. If it means the two campaigns need to work together to see the current rules are enforced, we will in fact work together," Trump adviser Ed Brookover told NPR's Sarah McCammon.
Cruz's campaign denied that the two campaigns are already colluding, but spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said that "it appears we agree that the rules should be followed. And if rules are followed," there are no scenarios where Kasich makes the ballot.
Kasich is already mathematically eliminated from getting the 1,237 delegates to clinch the GOP nomination. He has won only one primary contest so far, his home state of Ohio on March 15. Kasich's delegate total stands at 143, trailing even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has already dropped out of the race.
According to current RNC rules, Kasich may not make the cut for the first ballot. That's because of the highly debated Rule 40(b), which requires that any candidate for nomination have the support of a majority of delegates in at least eight states. Trump has already met the requirement, and Cruz's campaign anticipates he will hit that benchmark as well, once all states have voted. Cruz has already won a majority of delegates in five states: Texas, Utah, Kansas, Maine and Idaho.
Rule 40(b) was put in place ahead of the 2012 convention as a way to prevent delegates pledged to former Texas Rep. Ron Paul from trying to challenge Mitt Romney's nomination on the floor. The previous requirement had been five states.
This time around, that little change could have a big impact as Republicans face a very real possibility of a contested convention.
The RNC Rules Committee will meet the week before the convention — as it does in every cycle — to revise the convention rules, which have been modified over the past four years as well. Convention delegates will have to approve the rules on the first day in Cleveland and could still modify or even reject the rules. The rules committee will also meet during the RNC's spring meeting later this month, and the question of whether to revise the rule could come up then.
RNC rules committee member Henry Barbour told NPR last week that he believed a revision of the eight-state requirement was ultimately unlikely.
"There's been a lot of people who felt like that should have been changed over the last couple of years," Barbour said. "But there's some political problems with changing it from eight to five at this point."
"Those rules were written to benefit a front-runner," Barbour said of the push by Romney's campaign to institute the rule four years ago, "and Donald Trump is a front-runner."
Cruz predicted a flat-out uprising if the rule is changed and someone other than he or Trump is the GOP nominee.
"It ain't going to happen," the Texas senator told reporters Monday morning. "If it did, the people would quite rightly revolt. If Washington said, 'We had elections in 50 states, but we, the deal-makers, don't care what the people voted for. We have someone else who's going to go along and get along and keep the cronyism going,' the voters would naturally say, 'To heck with you, we're staying home.' "
Trump has also called foul about possibly changing the rule.
"If I didn't have Kasich, I automatically win," he argued at a campaign stop in West Allis, Wis., on Sunday night.
Kasich pushed back on such an assertion as he was campaigning in Hempstead, N.Y., on Monday. He told a questioner at his town hall at Hofstra University that he was unequivocally "not dropping out."
"Donald Trump said that I need to get out of the race because I'm getting his voters," Kasich said. "Well, I — wait, wait, no, no, I've got news for him. I'm going to get a heck of a lot of his voters, OK?"
Kasich's campaign also dismissed the push by his opponents, arguing that polls show the Ohio governor is the strongest general election nominee in matchups against Hillary Clinton. They've said that will resonate with delegates.
"These are more devious and dishonest tactics by Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. They are misleading voters in a desperate attempt to undermine Gov. Kasich because they are afraid to face him as the race moves East," Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf said. "They know Gov. Kasich will win at the convention because he is the only Republican who can defeat Hillary Clinton."
NPR's Sarah McCammon contributed reporting.