INDIANAPOLIS — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, barnstormed central and southern Indiana Monday after striking a historic deal with Ohio Gov. John Kasich to be the Hoosier face of the "Stop Trump" movement.
At rallies in Borden and Franklin, and voter meet-and-greets at a Columbus ice cream parlor and a Greenwood pizza shop, Cruz sought to broaden his appeal beyond social conservatives by linking himself with Indiana's most recent and current governors.
“We need a president in the spirit of Mitch Daniels and Mike Pence. That is exactly what this campaign is based on,” Cruz said. “The stakes are too high for us to get fooled again.”
Those high stakes are personified in Donald Trump, the former Gary casino owner, who is expected to win Republican primaries in five northeastern states Tuesday, and get closer to the 1,237 delegates he needs to claim the GOP nomination on the first ballot at the July 18-21 national convention in Cleveland.
Cruz and Kasich are explicitly playing for a contested convention where no presidential candidate has a majority and GOP delegates vote over-and-over until a compromise nominee is selected.
To that end, they agreed Sunday night that Kasich would stop campaigning in Indiana ahead of the May 3 primary so anti-Trump voters could coalesce around Cruz. Meanwhile, Cruz will let Kasich take the lead in the upcoming Oregon and New Mexico contests.
Following the deal's announcement, Cruz added Indiana campaign stops as part of a targeted effort to pick up the three Republican convention delegates awarded to the person with the most votes in each of the state's nine congressional districts.
The statewide winner gets 30 of Indiana's 57 GOP delegates.
Cruz said in Borden the eyes of the nation now are watching Indiana where Republican voters finally have a head-to-head choice between Trump and not-Trump.
“Do we want to go down the path of nominating a candidate whose entire campaign platform consists of yelling and screaming and cursing and insulting anyone and everyone he can find?” Cruz asked.
“Or do we want instead a positive, optimistic, forward-looking conservative campaign, with real policy solutions to the challenges facing this country, that will bring jobs back to America, will raise wages and expand opportunity for everybody?”
Cruz said if Hoosiers make the wrong decision — by voting for Trump — it would be a “disaster for Republicans, for conservatives and for the country,” because Democrat Hillary Clinton is certain to defeat Trump in the general election.
Trump condemned the Cruz-Kasich deal as a "truly weak" move by two candidates who are "mathematically dead."
"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," Trump said. "Everyone now sees that the Republican primary system is totally rigged."
"This horrible act of desperation, from two campaigns who have totally failed, makes me even more determined, for the good of the Republican Party and our country, to prevail."
Experts also were astounded by the willingness of the two remaining Republican candidates not named Trump to outright admit they don't have a chance to win the nomination and yet still plan to wrest it from the front-runner.
“You just had RNC Chair Reince Priebus last week give a big speech telling the party to get behind whoever the nominee is, and not even a week later two Republican candidates are colluding to do just the opposite,” said Stephanie Martin, assistant professor of communications at Southern Methodist University.
“It shows the party may be more fractured than we even knew, and we already knew it was very fractured.”
Some Hoosiers who already have cast their ballots also were upset by the Cruz-Kasich deal, among them state Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, a Kasich supporter and 2009 graduate of the former Purdue University Calumet in Hammond.
“This election is garbage. I voted early and then they cut a deal a week before Election Day,” Ober said. “I'm just over this election. If they want Trump give them Trump and when we lose this fall I know who to blame."
The Republican front-runner is returning to Indianapolis Wednesday for an evening rally at the state fairgrounds, one week after he spoke to Hoosier voters at the same location.
Former Indiana University men's basketball coach Bobby Knight is set to endorse Trump at the event.
Neither Cruz nor Trump have so far announced plans to campaign in Northwest Indiana, though Cruz's father, Pastor Rafael Cruz, spoke Sunday night at Living Stones Church in Crown Point.
Clinton, a former U.S. senator and secretary of state, will be in the Region Tuesday where she will tour Munster Steel Co. The tour at 1501 Huehn St. in Hammond is scheduled to start at 1:45 p.m.
She will also tour the AM General plant in Mishawaka after her stop in Gary.
Democratic Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also is expected in the state sometime after Tuesday.