John Kasich Resisting Calls To Drop Out of Republican Race For President
As the Republican establishment continues to line up behind Ted Cruz as what is allegedly their last, best hope to stop Donald Trump, Ohio Governor John Kasich is continues to reject calls to drop out of a race that seems to be unwinnable from his point of view:
Republicans desperate to stop Donald J. Trump from capturing the presidential nomination increased the pressure Wednesday on Gov. John Kasich of Ohio to quit the race, with Jeb Bush joining the growing number of party figures throwing their weight behind Senator Ted Cruz.
Mr. Kasich refused, saying that he, not the Texas senator, was the best option to stop Mr. Trump. But his argument was undercut by his dismal showings Tuesday in Utah and Arizona, where he won no delegates — as well as by the surprise endorsement Wednesday morning by Mr. Bush of Mr. Cruz.
Mr. Bush, who dropped out of the presidential race last month, is the latest mainstream Republican — following Mitt Romney and Senator Lindsey Graham — who is ideologically closer to Mr. Kasich, but whose embrace of Mr. Cruz is a strategic calculation that he has a better shot at stopping Mr. Trump.
In a statement, Mr. Bush called Mr. Cruz a “consistent, principled conservative who has demonstrated the ability to appeal to voters and win primary contests.”
“For the sake of our party and country,” he added, “we must move to overcome the divisiveness and vulgarity Donald Trump has brought into the political arena, or we will certainly lose our chance to defeat the Democratic nominee and reverse President Obama’s failed policies.”
Mr. Cruz himself pressed the issue Wednesday, a day after his resounding victory in Utah, where he won 69 percent of the vote, making him the first Republican candidate to win a majority in any state.
Mr. Trump took Arizona, while Mr. Kasich finished with even fewer votes there than did Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who dropped out last week after early voting had begun.
“If this were a head-to-head race, a direct head-to-head race between me and Donald, I would feel very confident that we would get to 1,237,” Mr. Cruz said, citing the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the July convention. “The complicating factor is John Kasich. It is unclear if Kasich will bleed off just enough votes to give Trump victories and delegates in states he would not otherwise have won.”
Mr. Kasich ignored all calls to step down. He campaigned Wednesday in Wisconsin, where the next Republican primary will be held April 5, and his advisers argued that the race’s final stretch of 20 states, mostly in the Northeast, Middle Atlantic and the West Coast, put Mr. Kasich in a far stronger position than Mr. Cruz to halt Mr. Trump.
“When we get to Pennsylvania, we get to New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island — let me tell you, I drop out, Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee,” Mr. Kasich said. “I don’t believe that Senator Cruz can come to the East and win.”
Charlie Black, a strategic adviser for Mr. Kasich, echoed the theme, stressing that moderate Republicans dominate in most of the remaining states, not those who identify as “very conservative” or evangelical, who have been Mr. Cruz’s base of support.
Mr. Kasich has won just one contest, Ohio, his home state. In the Northeast, he nearly beat Mr. Trump in Vermont, and came in second to Mr. Trump in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. But Mr. Cruz won Maine, where Mr. Kasich was a distant third.
As I noted yesterday, Kasich has already been mathematically eliminated from being able to win a majority of the delegates to win the nomination and he will only stand to lose ground to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as time goes on over the next three months. His campaign doesn’t appear to deny this fact, though, and instead insists that he is the only only candidate who can compete against Trump in the contests going forward, especially in the Mid-Atlantic states that have primaries at the end of April, as well as states such as New Jersey and California, which don’t have primaries until June but which seemed destined to play a far more prominent role in the selection of the Republican nominee than they have in quite some time. At least superficially, it’s an argument that makes some sense given the fact that the Republican electorate in these states is likely to be less conservative than in other parts of the country, meaning that a candidate like Ted Cruz is less likely to do well in those states and that a one-on-one matchup against Trump in those states between Trump and Cruz would likely help Trump more than it does Cruz. There hasn’t been nearly enough polling in the April primary states to be able to state with any certainty whether Kasich’s campaign is right or not. The only thing we can say with certainty is that Kasich has absolutely no chance of winning the nomination before the convention, and that his only remaining role is as a spoiler in the effort to stop Donald Trump.
Underlying all of this, of course, is the suspicion that Kasich is playing the long game here in the hope that it will benefit him in the end while Trump and Cruz continue to bloody each other up. The most unlikely scenario has the Ohio Governor suddenly becoming a consensus compromise pick for President at a deadlocked Republican convention, and that Kasich can use his win in Ohio as well as, his campaign hopes, strong performances in the Mid-Atlantic and California, to make the case that he is better situated to take on Hillary Clinton in the fall. As further evidence in support of this argument, Kasich and his supporters frequently point out that Kasich is the only candidate who consistently beats both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton while head-to-head polling shows Ted Cruz losing to both candidates, and Donald Trump doing even worse. Notwithstanding those numbers, though, it seems highly unlikely that Kasich would end up walking out of Cleveland as the nominee even in the case of a brokered convention. Another theory has Kasich perhaps being able to use the 250 or so delegates he’s likely to control as a bargaining chip for a place on the ticket. This isn’t an entirely implausible explanation for Kasich’s actions, but given the fact that both Cruz and Trump are likely to lose to the likely Democratic nominee one wonders why Kasich would consider it to be to his advantage to be the running mate on a losing ticket, something that has rarely been the stepping stone to political success in the United States.