Kasich Gives Up, Likely Leaving Trump the GOP Crown

by | May 5, 2016

By Tom Troy and Jim Provance

A philosophical Gov. John Kasich suspended his 10-month campaign for president on Wednesday.

His departure left New York real estate developer Donald Trump as the only claimant to the Republican party nomination, though Mr. Kasich had so few delegates that he wasn't regarded as a serious threat.

"The Lord has a purpose for me, as he has for everyone, and as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life. Thank you and God bless," Mr. Kasich said at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens -- the same place where he announced his endorsement by former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in March.

Mr. Kasich did not say why he quit the race or shed light in his 16-minute speech on whether he'll support Mr. Trump, whose proposals he has denounced as "disturbing."

Mr. Kasich earned a national reputation during the 205-day campaign for hugging people, eating large amounts of food at deli counters, saying off-beat things, and telling "dad jokes." He participated in 13 national debates, where he recalled his roots as the son of a letter carrier and his role as chairman of the House Budget Committee in balancing the federal budget during the 1990s.

Mr. Kasich's brand of conservative governance included looking out for the most unfortunate, extending access to Medicaid even though it was a feature of Obamacare, and accepting the education program Common Core, which is hated by many in the Republican electorate. He mocked the idea of abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and of getting Mexico to pay for construction of a border wall -- ideas of his rivals.

After finishing second in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, he never gained traction with a GOP base that was looking for outsiders. The high point of his race was Ohio, where he won all 66 delegates on March 15.

Mr. Kasich, 63, a former congressman who graduated from Ohio State University, is midway through his second gubernatorial term.

His absence from Ohio and the cost to its taxpayers of his security detail were generating more and more grumbling.

A poll from Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling released this week suggested Ohioans are tiring of the arrangement and want him back home. But Mr. Kasich seemed determined as late as Tuesday evening to stay in the race, however minuscule his chances of succeeding.

That changed Wednesday when he failed to show at a campaign event in Virginia, remained in Ohio, then scheduled a 5 p.m. announcement, which was quickly determined to be his exit speech.

After winning all 57 delegates in the Indiana primary on Tuesday, Mr. Trump is within easy reach of the 1,237 delegates needed to cinch the nomination before the July 18 GOP convention. The other remaining contender to Mr. Trump, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, suspended his campaign Tuesday night.

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus called Mr. Trump the "presumptive nominee."

Mr. Kasich started by thanking his wife, Karen, teenage daughters Emma and Reece, his staff, his volunteers, his contributors, and the people of Ohio.

"Our staff -- nobody has ever done more with less in the history of politics than the staff has done," he said, his eyes tearing at times.

He gave a minisummary of his political philosophy, centering on economic growth as the foundation of national strength, then turned spiritual.

"When we reach out and help someone else, what it does is it opens ourselves to recognizing and receiving the help we need in our lives. It's a virtuous circle," he said.

He called the many town-hall meetings he hosted "absolutely magic" and said he will never forget the "beautiful towns" of New Hampshire.

Ohio Republican Chairman Matt Borges said the party will unite behind Mr. Trump as the party's nominee and declined to comment on whether Mr. Kasich would do the same.

"I'm sure he'll work hard to make sure Republicans get elected this year," he said. "I know he's going to be up in Cleveland [at the convention]. I'll let this sink in and let him decide what he wants to do moving forward.

"We have a million new registered Republicans in Ohio. I don't think anybody on this campaign has anything to be ashamed of or feel bad about."

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has filled in often for events that Mr. Kasich would normally have attended, but she insisted he has always been the governor.

"John Kasich represented the best of the Republican Party. He has the experience both in Washington and here in Ohio balancing budgets and doing the right things for the people of our state and our country. He has a record to run on. I would expect under other circumstances that would have been a winning message," she said.

"I can't support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for president. That's what I'm going to be focused on this year," Ms. Taylor said.

Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook, who sent local volunteers to other states for Mr. Kasich, said Mr. Trump has become the party's standard bearer.

"I think [Mr. Kasich] did a phenomenal job on the campaign trail. In the end it's all about the number of delegates you can acquire," Mr. Stainbrook said. "Now it's time for us to unite behind one Republican candidate and take back the White House and beat Hillary Clinton in November and that candidate is Donald Trump."

Larry Sabato of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia said Mr. Kasich might make a perfunctory endorsement, then plead that he's too busy to spend time on politics.

"Kasich can be unpredictable. Normally we'd just assume an endorsement of the winner, but Trump is no ordinary nominee. And I suppose Kasich is no ordinary rival. I'd say he would indicate he's voting for the GOP candidate -- then stay very busy through November," Mr. Sabato said.

He noted that endorsements don't matter much in this election.

State Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) attended Mr. Kasich's announcement and said she was disappointed.

"Intellectually he's the most capable and able person that was running, but that's not the way it worked out. We'll rally behind the nominee and move forward," Ms. Sears said.

When and if he does endorse Mr. Trump, Mr. Kasich may have to explain how he overcame his objections to Mr. Trump's policy proposals.

During a speech in New York on April 12, Mr. Kasich criticized some of Mr. Trump's proposals as "disturbing." Those were ''to create a religious test for immigration, to target neighborhoods for surveillance, impose draconian tariffs which would crush trade and destroy American jobs," and to "drop out of NATO, abandon Europe to Russia, possibly use nuclear weapons in Europe, end our defense partnerships in Asia, and tell our Middle East allies that they have to go it alone."

(c)2016 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)