Ted Cruz has joined Donald Trump in attacking the “fevered pipedream” of changing Republican party rules and allowing a more moderate candidate to compete against them for the presidential nomination.

In remarks to reporters on the eve of a crucial primary election in Wisconsin, the Texan senator was scathing of the idea, despite it being floated only hours earlier by the Republican National Committee chair, Reince Priebus, in an interview on Sunday.

Cruz is expected to score an important victory over Trump in the state on Tuesday, possibly winning enough delegates to stop the billionaire frontrunner from securing the nomination outright before the national convention in July.

Related: US election delegate tracker: who’s winning the presidential nomination?

It has led to renewed speculation that a “ contested convention ” could even open the door for a new, more establishment-friendly candidate such as the House speaker, Paul Ryan, to seek the nomination instead.

But Cruz sought to quash such talk quickly on Monday – suggesting both outsiders would unite to prevent the required rule change.

“This fevered pipedream of Washington that at the convention they will parachute in some white knight who will save the Washington establishment, it ain’t gonna happen,” he said.

“If it did, the people would quite rightly revolt,” added the maverick conservative senator, in an echo of Trump’s warning of riots if the party sought to block the will of its voters.

The key hurdle for a new candidate, or even the trailing Ohio governor John Kasich, to seek the nomination through the convention process is a rule requiring them to have won eight state primaries in order to be considered.

“It’s interesting that this rule that is in question was adopted in 2012 because the Washington establishment wanted to keep Ron Paul and his supporters out,” said Cruz. “Now that it is inconvenient they want to get rid of it, but you know what: what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. If you want to win, win at the ballot box.”

Changing the 2012 requirement would require the GOP rules committee to vote ahead of the Cleveland convention, or during later rounds of voting, but party leaders insist the latter scenario is still possible.

“That rule is a rule that was drafted by the Romney delegates of 2012 and that rule, obviously, will be reviewed by the 2016 rules committee, which will be made up mostly of Trump and Cruz delegates, and, you know, they will likely have an incentive to probably not change that rule,” Priebus told Fox News on Sunday.

“But let’s just play out [the] hypothetical,” added the RNC chair. “I think it’s possible [that someone on a later ballot when most of the delegates are unbound could be nominated]. And at that point, if you get into a multi-ballot convention where you’ve got five or six or seven rounds, it’s possible that a person can be nominated that’s not one of the three.”

Cruz insists such a scenario would deprive any nominee of legitimacy and claims only he can now unify the party against Trump.

“If Washington says ‘we have elections in 50 states, but we don’t like what the people have voted for and we have someone else who is going to get along and keep the cronyism going’, the voters would naturally say ‘to heck with you, we’re staying home’,” he said.

“Are some folks in Washington foolish enough to do that anyway? Probably. But they can’t do it. If over 80% of the delegates are Cruz delegates and Trump delegates, under what universe do a thousand [of them] go vote for some uber-Washington lobbyist who hasn’t been on the ballot. That simply isn’t going to happen.”

“The nice thing is Washington doesn’t control what happens, the delegates do,,” he added, during the remarks with reporters ahead of a prerecorded television “town hall debate” on Monday.

“We are going to arrive at the convention where 80% of the delegates are going to be Cruz delegates or Trump delegates. Both Donald and I have been very clear that we shouldn’t be changing the rules because Washington is unhappy with how the people are voting.”

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