I still can’t stand even the sound of John Kasich’s voice.

Now that we have that out of the way, it’s pretty clear that the Republican primaries and convention come down to a choice between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Speculation otherwise — including conspiracy theories — does not seem to live in the real world, according to Charlie Cook:

Whenev­er I hear Re­pub­lic­ans wax on about the pos­sib­il­ity of nom­in­at­ing someone oth­er than Don­ald Trump or Ted Cruz — talk­ing up John Kasich, Paul Ry­an, Scott Walk­er, Mitt Rom­ney, or some oth­er less po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure — it makes me won­der: Ex­actly how would that hap­pen?

We all have mem­or­ized two num­bers. The first is 1,237, the num­ber of del­eg­ates needed to win a ma­jor­ity at the GOP con­ven­tion. The second is 40, as in Rule 40, re­quir­ing that a can­did­ate win primar­ies or caucuses in eight states to have his name placed in nom­in­a­tion. (It was ad­ded to the party rules in 2012, pushed by al­lies of Mitt Rom­ney to stifle Ron Paul.)

Yes, the con­ven­tion rules com­mit­tee could the­or­et­ic­ally amend Rule 40, but then the change would have to be ap­proved by a ma­jor­ity vote of the del­eg­ates. Ask your­self, ex­actly which del­eg­ates would vote to res­cind the rule? Trump and Cruz are likely to have more than 80 per­cent of the del­eg­ates locked up, so which one will en­cour­age his del­eg­ates to sup­port this change? Short an­swer: neither. It would be against their in­terests, and it ain’t gonna hap­pen. Like it or not, this thing is com­ing down to either Trump or Cruz, and people ought to stop fan­tas­iz­ing about oth­er op­tions.

I’m not quite as certain as Cook, but as I pointed out, both Trump and Cruz are working to make sure they are the only choices.

The real issue is whether Trump gets to 1237 prior to the convention. If that doesn’t happen, Cruz has the clear advantage as he has been waging trench warfare to ensure as many bound “Trump delegates” on the first ballot defect.

There’s also the issue of 170 Rubio delegates, who likely would vote for Cruz:

Nate Silver writes that even if there were an attempt to unseat both Trump and Cruz, it likely wouldn’t work, Ted Cruz, Not Paul Ryan, Would Probably Win A Contested Convention:

… with Donald Trump’s path to 1,237 delegates looking tenuous, especially after his loss in Wisconsin on Tuesday night, [a contested convention is] a real possibility…

We know that Cruz is likely to do well among delegates chosen through state and local conventions because we’ve seen that demonstrated quite a few times already…. Cruz has also gotten good results at state and local conventions in states that do hold a presidential preference vote. In fact, considering that relatively few states have completed their convention process, it’s remarkable how many examples you can find of Cruz cleaning Trump’s clock: for example, in Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina and South Dakota….

We have fewer examples of how Cruz will fare among delegates chosen by party committees, but Tennessee represents an initial success for him. Another good proxy for how state party insiders are leaning is endorsements from state legislators. Cruz has about six times more of those than Trump and more than twice as many as Kasich, according to data collected by Boris Shor and Will Cubbison. Furthermore, Cruz has been fairly popular among state legislators for some time, according to Shor and Cubbison; they’re not merely coming to him out of desperation….

… we’re also learning more and more about who those delegates are now that they’re being chosen. They’re not members of the Washington “establishment.” Instead, they’re mostly grass-roots activists, and many of them want Cruz to be their next president.

Sure, anything could happen. But it’s not likely to. It almost certainly will come down to Trump or Cruz.

Putting aside numerous gratuitous digs at Trump, George Will provides some good information about Cruz’s focus on delegate strategy:

People here at Ted Cruz’s campaign headquarters are meticulously preparing to win a contested convention, if there is one….

The nomination process “is a multilevel Rubik’s Cube,”​ says Jeff Roe, Cruz’s campaign manager. “Trump thought it was a golf ball — you just had to whack it.” Roe says the Cruz campaign’s engagement with the granular details of delegate maintenance is producing a situation where “the guy who is trying to hijack the party runs into a guy with a machine gun.”

… Trump, says Roe, is now “bound by his brand rather than propelled by his brand.” If Trump comes to Cleveland, say, 38 delegates short of 1,237, he will lose. Cruz probably will be proportionally closer to Trump than Lincoln (102 delegates) was to William Seward (173.5) who was 60 delegates short of victory on the first of three ballots at the 1860 convention.

Trump, by contrast, is scrambling to assemble a convention delegate team and transition from a campaign waged by force of personality and media domination:

The stepped-up role for the [newly hired] convention manager, Paul Manafort, a veteran of floor fights whose presence on Mr. Trump’s campaign has created anxiety among other top aides, was intended in part to quash reports of infighting and concerns about an organization whose performance has been lackluster at best in a recent string of nominating contests….

But Mr. Manafort faces some daunting obstacles. In the two weeks since he joined a campaign driven by a candidate with a larger-than-life personality, Mr. Trump has lost the Wisconsin primary by double digits to Senator Ted Cruz. The better-organized Cruz campaign has been able to wrangle delegates from Mr. Trump in Louisiana. And with the Colorado Republican convention days away, the Trump campaign last weekend fired the aide overseeing efforts in the state.

It’s at this point I’d normally have a reader poll. But pro-Trump websites and Twitter trolls have become too adept at driving people to online polls, rendering them meaningless.

That’s why we can’t have nice things.