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Ted Cruz and Donald Trump Battle Out Indiana Primary


California isn't the only state with new importance in the race. Indiana's primary Tuesday is another battleground. Kasich and Cruz are mathematically eliminated from winning enough delegates to get the GOP nomination, but their campaigns made an unusual agreement a week ago in a last-ditch attempt to stop Trump.

The deal called for Kasich to pull out of Indiana in exchange for Cruz's seating contests in Oregon and New Mexico. But it's been kind of a rocky week ever since the deal was made, and it's left supporters of both candidates in limbo. Pete Seat is the campaign consultant for John Kasich in Indiana. He joins us now from Indianapolis. Mr. Seat, thanks for being with us.

PETE SEAT: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: First off, can you just explain how you understood this agreement?

SEAT: (Laughter) Well, it's a reallocation of resources and finding ways that time, energy and talent can be put to their best use. And for John Kasich and his campaign, that was moving west to Oregon and New Mexico. And for Ted Cruz, that was stationing himself and pitching a tent here in the Hoosier state to try and earn the vote - the votes of Hoosier voters.

MARTIN: So you snickered a little bit there. Do you think the deal has been mischaracterized? I mean, did your candidate, John Kasich, ever say to voters in Indiana, don't vote for me. Vote for Ted Cruz.

SEAT: You caught the snicker. That's good (laughter). Yeah, and I did that simply because the way it has been characterized is this deal, this alliance, this, you know, magical way of campaigning when it's really simply, at its core, a reallocation of resources and campaigns making strategic decisions on how they can best motivate their supporters and ensure that there is a second ballot in Cleveland. And again, for John Kasich, that was Oregon and New Mexico. And for Ted Cruz, that was Indiana.

MARTIN: But you understand how people see this as exceptional, basically both candidates understanding and recognizing the fact that they're not going to win on a first ballot and making a deal, essentially saying you take this state, I'll take this state.

SEAT: Yeah. Well, for both of these individuals, the second ballot is critical to getting the nomination. And for John Kasich's side, you know, he wants to have that opportunity because he is, of these three candidates still in the race, the only one who has proven that he can win in November. And ultimately, there's no point in this entire exercise of having a primary process like this if Republicans cannot win in November. The goal is to not just win the election but to have someone that can govern as president of the United States as well. And that's what Kasich's goal is. Obviously, Ted Cruz has his mutual goal of at least getting to a second ballot and then earning support from delegates.

MARTIN: The front-runner, Donald Trump, has called this primary system overall rigged. He's called this deal in particular collusion. Does he have a point?

SEAT: (Laughter) Well, here in the state of Indiana, it's interesting that he says that because according to state law, at-large delegates are not bound on any ballot at all at the national convention. Yet in state party rules, those at-large delegates are bound on the first ballot. So if, in fact, Donald Trump is to win Indiana on Tuesday, he actually should probably send a fruit basket to the Indiana Republican Party because the so-called rigging that he complains about will actually be to his benefit on that first ballot.

MARTIN: Just briefly, in Indiana there's a sizable chunk of the demographic of the voting population that identify as moderates. How likely is it that these voters will get behind Ted Cruz? I mean, where does this so-called agreement leave people who want to support John Kasich?

SEAT: Well, those are precisely the people that he needs to be earning their support in the - what we call the donut counties that surround Indianapolis. Those are voters that are more fiscal, less social conservative. They're in the mold of Mitch Daniels. And they are, in most cases, the ones who determine who wins the statewide Republican primary. And Ted Cruz has to be targeting those individuals if he has any chance of winning on Tuesday.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Pete Seat is the senior project manager at Hathaway Strategies and an adviser to the Kasich campaign. Thanks so much.

SEAT: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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