WASHINGTON • Republican rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich have agreed to coordinate in future primary contests in a last-ditch bid to deny Mr Donald Trump the party's presidential nomination.
This means each of the two will stand aside in certain states amid concerns that the tycoon cannot be stopped otherwise.
Mr Cruz's campaign manager on Sunday said it would focus on Indiana and clear the path for Mr Kasich to compete in Oregon and New Mexico. The Kasich campaign put out a similar message.
The arrangement is a striking departure for Mr Cruz, who previously rebuffed calls from some party leaders - including members of the Kasich campaign - to divvy up states to foil Mr Trump's path. Mr Cruz's team rejected the earlier overtures, in part because it would have meant ceding the spotlight in high-profile contests, such as New York.
The move also signals a major shift in tone towards Mr Kasich, accused of being a "spoiler" in the race. Mr Cruz has questioned whether Mr Kasich was auditioning to be Mr Trump's vice-president.
But Indiana, which votes on May 3, is seen as critical to Mr Cruz's chances of keeping Mr Trump safely beneath the delegate count required for the nomination.
Mr Trump's landslide victory in New York last week and an expected win today in a few states - Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Delaware - demoralised those Republicans hoping to halt his candidacy. They fear that if he wins Indiana, the appetite and financing to block him in the remaining states will dissipate.
Indiana is also one of the few states left before the June 7 vote in California, where there is much indecision. Public polling in Indiana shows Mr Cruz trailing Mr Trump in part because Mr Kasich threatens to win a large number of votes.
The timing was crucial, too. Mr Cruz now will have more than a week of campaigning in Indiana unimpeded by Mr Kasich.
Mr Trump leads substantially in the delegate battle so far, with 846 against 563 for Mr Cruz and 147 for Mr Kasich. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination outright.
Mr Cruz's advisers say he was willing to punt on the primaries in Oregon and New Mexico, which together account for 52 delegates, because the campaign needed to offer states with about the same number of delegates as Indiana's 57. And Oregon and New Mexico are proportional states, so they are not likely to hand either candidate a significant trove of delegates.
For Mr Trump, who has repeatedly said the nominating system was being "rigged" by the party to keep him out, the new alliance against him could provide further evidence for his argument. He said on Twitter: "Wow, just announced that Lyin' Ted and Kasich are going to collude in order to keep me from getting the Republican nomination. DESPERATION!"
On the Democratic side, Mrs Hillary Clinton is considered the clear favourite today in Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
The Connecticut primary highlights one of the few issues where she is running to the left of her rival Bernie Sanders: gun control. She has aligned herself with families of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre, as well as other gun control groups.
NEW YORK TIMES, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE