Rubio Quits, Kasich Stays Afloat, And Trump Moves Closer To Being The Inevitable GOP Nominee

A big night in the Republican race for President leaves Donald Trump as the only candidate realistically situated to be anywhere near a majority of delegates by the time the primaries end in June.

Republican Candidates

Donald Trump won at least three of the five states at stake on what was arguably the most important night of the 2016 primary season, and stands poised to narrowly win a fourth that seemed like it would fall into Ted Cruz’s pocket, while home state candidates Marco Rubio and John Kasich saw their fortunes go in entirely different directions:

Donald J. Trump rolled to victory in the Republican presidential primaries in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina on Tuesday, driving Senator Marco Rubio from the race and amassing a formidable delegate advantage that will be exceedingly difficult for any rival to overcome.

But with a victory in Ohio, his home state, Gov. John Kasich denied Mr. Trump one of the night’s biggest prizes and made it harder for him to clinch the nomination outright before primary voting ends in June.

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas finished second in Illinois and North Carolina and was locked in a tight race with Mr. Trump in Missouri, ensuring that he, too, would earn a share of delegates.

Mr. Trump has faced mounting criticism from Republicans for the vitriolic tone of his candidacy, but he struck a defiant note Tuesday night, describing himself proudly as a candidate of the angry and disaffected. “There is great anger,” he said. “Believe me, there is great anger.”

Republicans opposed to Mr. Trump believe that Tuesday’s results may have increased their chances of denying him the nomination at the party’s convention in Cleveland. But they are left with a pair of deeply flawed alternatives: Mr. Cruz, who has the second-most delegates but is reviled by many party leaders, and Mr. Kasich, who has so far run the equivalent of a favorite-son campaign, winning only Ohio.

Mr. Kasich must now strain for a larger role in a Republican contest in which he has largely competed in obscurity. In his Tuesday night speech, he did not take on Mr. Trump by name, but said he would carry his own message of uplift “all the way to Cleveland.”

“It’s been my intention to make you proud,” Mr. Kasich told a roaring crowd in Berea, Ohio, adding a favorite line: “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.”

Despite Mr. Kasich’s victory in Ohio, Mr. Cruz made another attempt on Tuesday to define the Republican race as the head-to-head contest he has long sought with Mr. Trump.

“After tonight, America has a clear choice going forward,” Mr. Cruz said once again, nodding to Mr. Rubio’s withdrawal. “Only one campaign has beaten Donald Trump over and over and over again.”

Mr. Trump remains the dominant figure in the race, however: His performance in Florida earned him 99 delegates and made a resounding statement about the appeal of his hard-edged populism in the country’s most sought-after swing state.

Mr. Rubio, addressing supporters in Miami, acknowledged that his campaign had been overwhelmed by an angry mood in the Republican electorate. In detached and clinical language, he said it had been impossible to repel the long-term political forces powering Mr. Trump.

“America’s in the middle of a real political storm — a real tsunami,” he said. “And we should have seen this coming.”

After congratulating Mr. Trump, Mr. Rubio essentially scolded him for the kind of campaign he has run.

“From a political standpoint, the easiest thing to have done in this campaign is to jump on all those anxieties,” Mr. Rubio warned in a valedictory address that at times sounded more like a policy seminar. “But that is not what’s best for America,” he added. “The politics of resentment against other people are not going to just leave us as a fractured party. They’re going to leave us as a fractured nation.”

Despite his triumph over Mr. Rubio, Mr. Trump was thwarted in his efforts to drive a second mainstream Republican rival from the race. Mr. Kasich’s victory in Ohio dealt Mr. Trump a stinging blow, preventing him from claiming the state’s 66 delegates and significantly increasing the chances that the Republican race will not be decided until the July convention.

It was the latest twist in an extraordinary campaign. Just three weeks ago, Republican leaders were complaining that Mr. Kasich, who until Tuesday had not won a single state, was ensuring Mr. Trump’s nomination by remaining in the race. Now, he has revived hopes throughout the party that Mr. Trump can be stopped.

Mr. Kasich’s victory in Ohio also shined a light on a nagging difficulty for Mr. Trump, and one of the Republican race’s most revealing divides: the class fault line. While Mr. Trump won among voters who earn less than $50,000 a year, Mr. Kasich overwhelmed him by more 30 percentage points among Ohioans who make more than $100,000.

Despite his Ohio win, Mr. Kasich was likely to emerge with fewer than 150 delegates over all — less than Mr. Rubio’s total. He alluded to heading west in “a covered wagon” and competing in California on June 7.

But in an important strategic signal, he also rolled out a list of longtime Republican insiders, some of them with experience in convention battles, who could be expected to press his case in Cleveland.

Mr. Kasich, after all, remains far behind Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz in the delegate battle, and he has not come close to winning outside a small handful of states.

Mr. Trump’s performance in North Carolina was a reminder of his enduring strength in the South, but he was likely to take only a handful more delegates from the state than Mr. Cruz, who finished second, because North Carolina allocates its 72 delegates on a proportional basis.

Mr. Trump fared better in Illinois, where most delegates are allocated by congressional district. After making headlines for canceling a rally that nearly became a riot on Friday in Chicago, Mr. Trump easily won Cook County and appeared poised to take most of the delegates in the city. And while Mr. Cruz seemed likely to capture at least one congressional district downstate, Mr. Trump also showed strength across much of southern Illinois.

In a scenario that once would have been unthinkable for mainstream Republicans, they are now largely relying on Mr. Cruz, who made his name in the Senate vilifying party leaders, to slow Mr. Trump’s march to the 1,237 delegates he needs.

National Republican leaders had held out hope that Mr. Rubio could mount a comeback in Florida and challenge Mr. Trump for the nomination. But Mr. Rubio’s loss extinguished that possibility and left a multi-ballot convention fight this summer as mainstream Republicans’ last avenue to block Mr. Trump with a more palatable alternative.

In reality, of course, Marco Rubio’s campaign was over long before last night, and it can largely be blamed on the fact that Rubio himself never seemed to settle on a campaign strategy, and never really seemed to have a clear path to victory even as the Republican and conservative establishment rallied around him as the last, best hope for stopping the momentum of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, neither of whom is exactly palatable to the establishment. After entering the race with a diminished profile thanks to the fact that his support for immigration reform had soured many hard core conservatives who had enthusiastically supported him in 2010, Rubio’s star seemingly started to rise in October and November as he slowly picked up endorsements and the support of megadonors who had been sitting on the sidelines. By January, though, supporters began to ask questions about his campaign strategy given the fact that it did not appear to be focused at all on any of the traditional early states. As it turned out, that strategy turned out to be an utter failure, as Rubio largely failed to win anywhere other than in minor contests that the other candidates had chosen to ignore, such as the contests in Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. In reality, though, the real end of the Rubio candidacy arguably came in the debate just prior to the New Hampshire Primary where Rubio found himself the target of virtually all the candidates thanks in no small part to his surprisingly strong finish in the Iowa Caucuses and the perception that he could take that momentum and build on it headed into New Hampshire and South Carolina. Instead, Rubio melted under the studio lights and, in particular, a withering cross-examination style attack from Chris Christie that Rubio never really recovered from. After that night, Rubio slipped from being a contender in New Hampshire to finishing in fifth place, and the rest is history. Perhaps Rubio will make a comeback at some point, he is after all still a young man and others in his position have had second lives in American politics before, but for now the man who was the biggest star of the Senate Class of 2010 will be heading back to Florida and an uncertain future.

Where Rubio found his home state to be the end of his campaign, Ohio Governor found just the opposite in the Buckeye State. For the most part, of course, Kasich has been an afterthought in the race for President whose presence on the stage was often a mystery to many. Up until last night, the best the Ohio Governor had done was second place in New Hampshire and Vermont, surprise showings that he owes by and large to his decision to basically concentrate all his campaign efforts on New Hampshire from the moment he got in the race in August. While he was largely a non-factor everywhere else, that strategy worked well enough that it guaranteed him a spot on the main stage in every Republican debate and exposure to a national audience that otherwise wouldn’t have any idea who he was. All along, Kasich remained confident and said that his strategy was to focus on winning his home state, along with other Midwestern states, and to carry those victories into the Spring and contests in the West and Mid-Atlantic. As it stands, though, Kasich failed to win Michigan, stands in a position in the delegate count where he is likely to finish with fewer delegates than even Marco Rubio, and largely mathematically eliminated from reached the 1,237 delegates needed to win the nomination. So, yes, Kasich won his home state but it’s hard to see where goes from here.

If there was another loser last night other than Marco Rubio, it was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who finds the central argument for his campaign increasingly being called into doubt. The worst of all possible worlds for Cruz, of course, would have been if Trump had won both Florida and Ohio since that would have made any hope of forcing a contested convention largely a fantasy, but last night’s result throw all of that into question. First of all, John Kasich’s victory in  Ohio means that he’s likely to stay in the race until the bitter end, a prospect which will make it easier for Donald Trump to win many of the states in the coming months that will allocate their delegates on a Winner Take All basis, thus denying Cruz the one-on-one race against Trump that he’s been craving. More immediately, though, Trump’s clear victories in North Carolina and Illinois, where the Cruz campaign at least had hoped to be competitive, and his apparent victory in Missouri, which remains too close for most news agencies to call, means that Cruz has yet to show that he can win a non-caucus state outside of his home state and neighboring Oklahoma. Given this, as well as the fact that the race is now headed into states where Cruz is arguably not likely to do well, there’s a good case that can be made that Cruz’s time has passed and there’s little that he can do to stop Donald Trump from being the nominee.

In the end, of course, all that matters is the delegate count, and when you look at those numbers, it seems fairly clear where the Republican nomination is headed, although these numbers are likely to become much more favorable to Trump once the final calculation of delegate allocation in Illinois and Missouri is completed. So far, Donald Trump has won 46.41% of the pledged delegates that have been awarded, compared to 29.60% for Ted Cruz, and 10.31% for John Kasich, with Marco Rubio standing just ahead of Kasich at 12.56%. With 1,134 delegates remaining to be chosen, Donald Trump would need to win 54.32% of those delegates to get to the 1,237 majority needed to win the nomination on the first ballot. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, would need to win 74.16% of the remaining delegates, a virtual impossibility, and John Kasich would need to win 96.91% of the remaining delegates, which is essentially a mathematical impossibility. Given the fact that the largest number of Republican primaries going forward are Winner Take All or some variation on that which awards delegates based both on who wins the state overall and who wins each of the state’s Congressional Districts, the odds that Trump can actually get to the majority he needs, or very close, are fairly good, and the odds that he can credibly be denied the nomination recede further and further with each victory. More importantly, even if Trump falls short of the majority he needs, it is likely that he will be very, very close to that majority while his likely closest competitor, Ted Cruz, will fall far short. At that point, denying the nomination to the person who has seemingly come the closest to winning the nomination outright would be a public relations disaster for the GOP that would, arguably, fracture the party even more than a Trump candidacy would. So, while it isn’t certain, the prospect of Donald Trump being the Republican nominee is now more likely than any other outcome in this race. What that means for the GOP going forward is anyone’s guess.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held 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 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Pch101 says:

    Trump has momentum and the lead, but the math would suggest that he isn’t inevitable. An opposing candidate who takes a few key states will produce a brokered convention. California would be key to that approach — an opponent who wins that plus another larger winner-take-all state such as Pennsylvania, Indiana or New Jersey would deny Trump a majority.

  2. CSK says:


    I’m fairly certain Trump has a good chance of taking Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New Jersey, if only because Trump took Massachusetts with 50% of the Republican/Independent primary vote. Massachusetts is the bluest of the blue, and its Republicans are far more in the Bill Weld/Charlie Baker mold than in the Ted Cruz mold, so one would have expected they’d go for Kasich (he actually came in second) or Rubio.

    But, no–it was Trump, the kind of person who normally gives people up here a bad case of dyspepsia.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    All this talk of a brokered convention gives me a chubby.
    A brokered convention will destroy the Republican party…absolutely destroy it.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    “Trump is a horrible nasty person who is the second coming of Hitler!”

    “So even though you’re a Republican, you’re going to vote for someone else?”

    “Are you CRAZY! I have to support my candidate!”

    (Repeat ad infinutem from 99% of self-identified Republicans out there. Don’t pretend you have any integrity when you act like this.)

    Meh. Ok, bye-bye until day-before-election. Gotta company to run.

  5. Pch101 says:


    I’m simply noting that a few spoilers can shake up the race.

    My math suggests that there are 1,080 delegates remaining, and 892 of those are in states that have some variation of winner-take-all. 172 of those are California’s. California isn’t usually a battleground state for anything, but it is now.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @grumpy realist: The ads, they write themselves.

  7. stonetools says:


    I think Trump likely wins all 4 of those states. I don’t see Cruz winning anywhere outside the interior Western states like Wyoming and the Dakotas,and I doubt Kasich will win another state.Nope, I think we should prepare for Trump winning outright. That’s the likeliest scenario.

  8. CSK says:

    Well, Trump has apparently threatened riots if he isn’t “handed” the nomination.

  9. Pch101 says:


    If Rubio voters switch to Cruz, then that would change the game.

  10. Tyrell says:

    It had to be a major upset that Rubio did not carry his own state. Unbelievable. And just how could that have occurred ?

  11. Grewgills says:

    I’d rather see them go to Kasich, but I suspect they’ll split up and the plurality of them will end up with Trump.

  12. Dave Francis says:

    Sorry! I am not a good loser, that’s why I don’t gamble. Put it this way, I am not going to vote for Sen. Cruz, former Gov. John Kasich who are in the corrupt institution called Congress or the Republican good old boys clique. It’s obvious if it comes to a convention, GOP elites are not going to pick Donald Trump. Using Kasich to bring down Trump, at any meeting are risking and it’s at there own peril. Nor am I voting for that Criminal Hillary Clinton or a Socialist-Communist Bernie Sanders who along with King Obama has pilfered the depleted federal and state treasuries, in supporting financially millions of illegal aliens. I’ll stay to the end until Donald Trump is either crippled or loses the race as nominee for the Presidency, by using any method to block Trump, which means any dirty tricks diversion, any manipulating of the delegates by either Political Party.

    If it goes against Donald Trump I am out, my family out, a bunch of old GI’s who fought in Viet-Nam are out; a majority of my friends and co-worker thought their vote didn’t matter are out and people who have never shadowed the election booth and millions of Trump you can be rest assured supporters will drop out. The effect of riots in the street of civil unrest is will cause what’s left of our sovereignty to collapse, Why bother voting when they see the election system is corrupt. All these people are a tiny drop in the ocean, but it’s not worth my energy or encouragement to vote for GOP establishment, or an alleged felon who violated our National Security and just like Sanders wants to soak the rich, and then kill more jobs of what is left of them.

    I never trusted either party as anybody who goes into today’s Washington morass, is corrupted by the lobbyists who appear at their offices offering them blank checks that they can squirrel away as long as they work for them on the floor of the House and Senate. The people who voted for Donald Trump are part of the ‘Silent Majority’. The American people are so demoralized by the Left or Right who never pursue what the population want; not the elites or a government that wants controls your life, just as the Kremlin does in Russia even today. Hillary is a clever in her dialogue, ranting on about equality and telling Americans that Conservatives are against every minority and ethnic population. YES! She’s good with her automatic commentaries, but she still has the same weak agenda of Obama and his proponents, that will drone on just like the other party.

    Any theft in a contested conference will certainly implode inside the Republican Party if they try to isolate the Donald. Why has millions of a silent majority entered the fray, because they want to see the Trump wall go up. Right now the United States are on the edge of economic disaster and the filaments extend outwards that includes the illegal alien invasion, that is depleting large chunks of social services and is effected Citizens and Legal immigrants way of life. More highway congestion, when foreigners are given drivers licenses and much of the facts about the illegal immigrant inversion is muffled by Obama’s government and the mainstream press. States like Ohio, Michigan has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, not only theft by illegal aliens, but by people with profiles chief negotiator Democratic John Kerry who gave away $150 Billion dollars to Iran.

    On Obama’s orders and GOP Cartel elites who have sold our jobs and businesses to foreign countries, that includes Mexico. Although our deficit with Mexico is $60 B, it does not compare with China’ $600 Billion. To me it’s no wonder that Detroit, Michigan, or the ‘Rust Belt’ states as they are called, which was once a hive of the bustling auto and steel industry. Now thousands of empty lots padlocked and still, having moved to Mexico. 9 provinces in the NAFTA treaty are the capitols of General motors, Ford, and Chrysler and a whole range of foreign cars and trucks, now manufactured across the border.

    The thousand miles TRUMP WALL which I would imagine would stand out as his magnificent buildings, will rise and all but eliminate easy access for the drug cartels and illegal immigrants/migrants. No more limp, flimsy barbed wire fences, but a real wall combined with unmanned drones and an army US border Patrol agents. The savings to the American people would be enormous, in costs for welfare support and thousands of lives. Then to stop business owners from hiring illegal aliens, the full operation of MANDATED E-VERIFY within the US, along with a biometric tracking system at all entry ports to insure people leave when their visa expires. The old sloppy optional E-Verify will be retired and those already here will find it forever harder to find a job. These extremely important immigration policies will be introduced, that neither Cruz, Kasick would in all probability sign into law, as they would be side tracked by the Special Interests who paid for their election campaign. Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have already stated in their debates that they are going to open a Path to Citizenship and giving five million illegal aliens amnesty. And what does America get more taxes to pay, lowering of wages and less jobs.


  13. Pch101 says:


    For that to be true, you have to assume that Trump pulls at least half of Rubio’s voters.

    Trump has been winning largely based upon pluralities, often in the 30-40% range. If a majority of Rubio’s voters shift to Cruz, then Trump will not sweep the remaining primaries and no one will have a majority going into the convention. As I noted, keeping a few major states from voting for Trump will be sufficient to achieve this.

  14. Grewgills says:


    For that to be true, you have to assume that Trump pulls at least half of Rubio’s voters.

    Referring to Rubio supporters I said,

    I’d rather see them go to Kasich, but I suspect they’ll split up and the plurality of them will end up with Trump.

    I doubt that either Trump or Cruz will get more than half of Rubio’s former supporters. I don’t think Kasich will either. I do think Trump will get more than Cruz or Kasich. That doesn’t require anyone getting more than half.
    The natural place for Rubio supporters to go would be to Kasich. He is closest in policy and temperment and hasn’t clashed with Rubio in the way the Trump and Cruz have. Kasich is so far behind now though that I think that will effect ex-Rubio supporters’ calculus and will lead many of them to chose Trump or Cruz. I think Trump will pull more than Cruz. Of course YMMV.
    In an ideal world I’d like to see all of Rubio’s supporters and most of the others not committed to Trump or Cruz go to Kasich. This isn’t because I want to see Kasich win, but because I’m rooting for (an unlikely) brutal convention fight that goes several rounds and leaves the GOP in tatters. I think Trump will win outright in the end, but I can dream.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @Dave Francis: Fascinating. No, FASCINATING!!

    former Gov. John Kasich

    Did I miss a big news story?

    Since you’re so pissed at the GOP establishment and since “Criminal Hillary Clinton” hasn’t actually been accused of a crime, much less convicted, would you consider voting for her?

  16. An Interested Party says:

    Nor am I voting for that Criminal Hillary Clinton or a Socialist-Communist Bernie Sanders who along with King Obama has pilfered the depleted federal and state treasuries, in supporting financially millions of illegal aliens.

    Is it any wonder why we’re going to hell in a hand basket, when voices like this represent the not-so-loyal opposition…

  17. Pch101 says:


    I do think Trump will get more than Cruz or Kasich.

    As Trump is the furthest candidate away from Rubio both on an ideological scale and in terms of demeanor, I don’t see any reason why you should believe that and many reasons that you shouldn’t.

    The natural place for Rubio supporters to go would be to Kasich.

    If some Rubio voters are strategic, then some of them may vote for Cruz in order to prevent Trump from having a majority and getting to a brokered convention. I would think that at least some of his establishment supporters would be inclined to do just that.