Kasich Keeps Going Even After Cruz Concedes to Trump

by | May 4, 2016 AT 1:00 PM

By Tom Troy

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the last man standing Tuesday night after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz dropped out of the race for the Republican party's presidential nomination -- other than the front-runner who's almost certainly going to be the nominee.

Mr. Cruz dropped out just after 8:30 p.m., as results showed New York billionaire Donald Trump winning the Indiana primary. He acknowledged he had "no path to victory."

Mr. Kasich made no such acknowledgement.

"Tonight's results are not going to alter Governor Kasich's campaign plans," said chief strategist John Weaver in a memo emailed to reporters, political strategists, and contributors a couple of hours before Mr. Cruz's stunning announcement.

"Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention," Mr. Weaver said.

Mr. Trump is less than 200 delegates away from the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination when the GOP convention begins July 18 in Cleveland, with nine states still set to vote. California alone has 172 delegates.

Many political observers already thought Mr. Kasich's chances of winning a contested convention were far-fetched, even if there was an open convention.

"With Cruz suspending his campaign, Trump is without question the presumptive nominee of the Republican party," said Melissa Miller, political science professor at Bowling Green State University.

She said Mr. Kasich already didn't have the cash to compete on the same level with Mr. Trump, and Mr. Kasich's distant third-place finish in Indiana is not likely to trigger a flood of contributions.

"With just a single statewide victory, it is hard to see how Kasich goes on," Ms. Miller said. Mr. Kasich won Ohio's primary March 15.

She said Republican voters don't seem to care that polls consistently show he is the only candidate likely to beat Hillary Clinton in November.

"Republican voters seem most concerned with sending a loud anti-establishment message to GOP leaders," she said.

Kyle Kondik, a former Elyria, Ohio, journalist and now with the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said Mr. Kasich didn't help himself by refusing to help Mr. Cruz win some of the delegates in Indiana.

Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz had agreed to leave Indiana to Mr. Cruz and Oregon and New Mexico to Mr. Kasich. The deal quickly went bust after Mr. Kasich declined to advise his voters to vote for Mr. Cruz, a statement that might have slowed the Trump train.

"If Kasich really wants to be the nominee, Cruz needed to win Indiana, and Kasich certainly did not do everything he could do to get his supporters in Indiana to back Cruz," Mr. Kondik said.

Mark Weaver, a Columbus Republican strategist and no relation to Mr. Kasich's strategist, said the GOP contest is about over.

"Trump will almost certainly be the Republican nominee, but Governor Kasich is a party leader who will remain a force at the convention," Mr. Weaver said. "No strategy that Kasich or Cruz could have implemented would have overcome the fervor of a loud and angry plurality that is now fueling Donald Trump."

Before Mr. Cruz dropped out, Mr. Kasich's campaign announced planned news conferences in Dulles, Va., today, and Thursday in Washington. He made a point of saying he would spend most of Wednesday in fund-raising events and would meet with his national security advisory group on Thursday.

Among a list of reasons to stay in, John Weaver said Mr. Kasich "can unite the party better than anyone else. Trump's cynical sowing of division will render the GOP into angry, irrelevant status for decades."

He also reiterated that polls show Mr. Kasich as the only Republican who can win in November.

"Both Trump and Cruz would lose to [Hillary] Clinton by considerable margins in a head-to-head race, winning just 210 and 206 Electoral College votes, respectively. By contrast, Kasich comfortably defeats Clinton, racking up 304 Electoral College votes to her 234," he wrote in a memo.

Ohio Democratic Chairman David Pepper said, "It's time to come home, address Ohio's challenges with real solutions, and reimburse taxpayers for all of their dollars that have been wasted."

"My only hope is that for once Kasich would make a decision that is best for the Ohio families paying his salary every day as opposed to whatever tactic is best to serve his political ambition," Mr. Pepper said.

(c)2016 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)