John Kasich Appears To Rule Out A Primary Challenge Against Trump

John Kasich hasn't shut the door completely, but recent comments seem to make it clear he's not likely to take on the President for the Republican nomination.

Joining Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, former Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was among the last of President Trump’s 2016 challengers for the Republican nomination the drop out of the race, appears to be ruling out a primary challenge to the President in 2020:

Is former Ohio Gov. John Kasich starting to close the door when it comes to a possible GOP primary challenge against President Trump?

“I don’t see a way to get there,” the former two-term governor turned senior CNN political commentator said Friday in an appearance on the cable news network.

“Right now, there’s no path,” he added, pointing the Trump’s strong support for re-election among Republican voters.

But a top Kasich political adviser told Fox News “nothing has changed.”

And the former governor himself took to Twitter later on Friday to temper his orignial comments.

When it comes to potentially primary challenging Trump, Kasich’s long stated that “all of my options are still on the table. “

In an interview with Fox News last November in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire, Kasich said “I really don’t know what I’m going to do.”

“I don’t have a timetable. I don’t announce timetables because I don’t know. I have to see what the situation is and whether I could really have an impact. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time if there’s not a clear path to having a major impact,” Kasich explained at the time.

And in an interview on Fox News Sunday a month later, Kasich said “all options are on the table.”

“We look every day —  I have a team of people who look every day at the factors that go into a consideration like that. We assess it, and at some point I will make a decision,” he added.

Kasich, who also served nearly two decades in Congress, stressed on Friday that he’s “never gotten involved in a political race where I didn’t think I could win.”

“Right now, there’s no path,” he added.

But he appeared to leave a crack open, saying “we never know what the future is going to bring.”

A few hours later, after his comments received plenty of attention in the national media, Kasich took to Twitter to write “know that while the path looks tough, all of my options are on the table.”


Asked about Friday’s comments by Kasich, veteran GOP political consultant John Weaver emphasized to Fox News that “nothing has changed.”

“Every day the tables could turn,” added Weaver, who served as chief strategist for Kasich’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Weaver said that “all options remain on the table.”

He argued that “millions have left the party since Trump’s election” and said he’s studying whether they will “come back and participate in” the 2020 primaries.

Vanity Fair’s Allison Durkee has more:

After over a year of hand-wringing and evasive answers, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich made it clear Friday that he likely won’t be entering the 2020 fray. Though the politician had long been rumored to be mounting a primary challenge or third party run against President Donald Trump, Kasich now concedes he does not have a viable shot at the presidency. “I’ve never gotten involved in a political race I didn’t think I could win, and right now there’s no path,” Kasich said in a CNN interview Friday. “Ninety percent of the Republican Party supports” Trump, Kasich added, and he’s not interested in running a purely symbolic campaign.

Kasich’s longtime political adviser John Weaver, is still leaving the door open. “Millions have left the party since Trump became president,” he told Rolling Stone on Friday, clarifying the former governor’s dilemma. “We could defeat Trump in New Hampshire, but then what?” Kasich, too, isn’t ready to close himself off entirely to the possibility that he could still run. “I like to say all of my options are on the table, either for now or for later, and we just see how the spirit moves me and what the opportunities are,” Kasich said Thursday at an event in Detroit. “I can’t predict what’s going to happen in my life.”

That’s a pretty marked change from Kasich’s position back in November 2018, when he told ABC News that he was having “earnest conversations that go on virtually every day” about another presidential run. As recently as April, he maintained that “all of my options remain on the table.” As one of the most prominent GOP Trump critics, Kasich had emerged as one of the more popular Republicans to potentially take on Trump in 2020; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been among those calling for Kasich to run, describing him as an “extraordinary guy.” But given Kasich’s previous 2016 defeat and a deeply conservative record that would likely ward off left-leaning swing voters, a primary challenge was always a long shot. “At this point, it doesn’t seem like there is a path for John Kasich to be the next president of the United States,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the Cincinnati Enquirer in December. “If Trump were to have an implosion, wouldn’t the GOP turn to someone else other than John Kasich? It’s not like there was some giant demand for John Kasich in 2016.”

Notwithstanding the fact that Kasich’s top political adviser is still leaving the door open to a run in 2020, this seems to be a fairly frank assessment on the part of the former Governor and suggests that he’s unlikely to get into a race that he really doesn’t have a chance of winning. As I’ve noted in the past, intra-party challenges to sitting Presidents have been uniformly unsuccessful in the modern era. Some challenges, such as Ronald Reagan in 1976 and Ted Kennedy in 1980, have come close to beating incumbents for their party’s nomination, of course. Others, such as Pat Buchanan in 1992, have arguably damaged the incumbent sufficiently that they limped into the General Election with a party that wasn’t entirely united behind them. However, none of them have been successful in actually beating an incumbent, and it’s unlikely that this could happen in 2020. This is especially true given the fact that Trump’s support inside the Republican Party is incredibly high and likely to remain at that level heading into the 2020 election.

Kasich has never been one to go off on quixotic electoral journeys so the fact that he may not run in these conditions is not surprising. The most he could get out of a run like this is press coverage that would translate into a second career as a political pundit, but one gets the assumption that much of the groundwork for that was laid back in 2016. Heading off on a suicide mission doesn’t make much sense.

Notwithstanding these decisions by Hogan and Kasich, Trump will still apparently face a primary challenge in the form of former Massachusetts Governor and Libertarian Vice-Presidential nominee Bill Weld That challenge looks to be as doomed as any other, though. In all honesty, it’s looking more and more like Weld should have stuck to his original plan to seek the Libertarian Party’s Presidential nomination. Instead, he left that party behind and all the attention in terms of the LP nomination appears to be focused on the hope that Republican Congressman Justin Amash, who has become one of the President’s most vocal critics on Capitol Hill with his calls for impeachment, will jump ship and run for the Libertarian Party nomination. Weld will end up being largely ignored notwithstanding the fact that he deserves to be taken seriously.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Barry says:

    Doug, we all know how things work – by the time that Trump could be plausibly primaried, the GOP has already lost the presidential election.

    I’m trying to think of the last time that an incumbent president had to worry about a primary challenge, and it’s not been for quite a while

  2. As I said, there has not been a successful primary challenge to an incumbent President in the modern era where party nominees are chosen principally by primary and caucus voters.

  3. Kathy says:

    No offense, but running under the aegis of the Libertarian Party is as ineffective for the ultimate goal, winning the presidential election, as trying to unseat Dennison in the primaries.

    But if Amash can pull enough votes from Dennison to get him to lose the general election, then he’ll be owed a debt of gratitude for a few days (that’s how long gratitude lasts in politics).

  4. Teve says:

    Trump has maxxed out the non-super-explicit racism. He’s the GOP leader.

  5. wr says:

    It’s nice to know that in this constantly changing world, some things remain entirely consistent, and chief among them is that Kasich is the biggest fraud around.

  6. Kylopod says:


    But if Amash can pull enough votes from Dennison to get him to lose the general election, then he’ll be owed a debt of gratitude for a few days (that’s how long gratitude lasts in politics).

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that.

  7. Kathy says:


    If he takes votes from Biden and gets Dennison reelected, he’ll be owed eternal hostility (that’s how long hostility lasts in politics).

  8. just nutha says:

    ” The most he could get out of a run like this is press coverage that would translate into a second career as a political pundit,”
    “‘I don’t see a way to get there,’ the former two-term governor turned senior CNN political commentator said Friday in an appearance on the cable news network.” [emphasis added]
    Looks like he’s already arrived to me.