- John Kasich is teaming up with Donald Trump to stop Ted Cruz from getting delegates.
- With Kasich having no real path to victory in the coming states, he puts his backing on Trump.
- Kasich’s plan is to wait for the more liberal states in the North-East to have their primaries, which will happen at the end of April.
- Kasich might be trying to play “friend card” to Trump, for possible benefits if Trump gets the nomination.
Ted Cruz is all in on the effort to block Donald Trump from winning the Republican nomination. John Kasich isn’t.
Over the weekend, Kasich’s campaign teamed up with Trump’s operation in Michigan to help Trump delegates gobble up convention committee posts that would otherwise have gone to Cruz. While the effects of the Michigan deal may be marginal, it was the best evidence yet that Team Kasich is more comfortable with a Trump nomination than a Cruz one.
The Kasich campaign defended aiding Trump on the grounds that Cruz deserved it as a punishment for trying to scoop up too many delegates. But whether it was bad blood, pique or part of a larger strategy, Kasich’s part in any anti-Trump strategy is increasingly in doubt.
From Kasich’s point of view, it’s understandable. We all know that the Ohio governor doesn’t have a path to win outright, or even on the first or second ballots in a contested Republican National Convention in July. But at the moment, Kasich doesn’t seem to have much of a path to win many more delegates in the remaining 16 states.
The sweet spot on the calendar for Kasich, a moderate establishmentarian who touts his record of bipartisanship, is the last two weeks of April when a bevy of liberal Northeastern states hold their primaries.
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The plan laid out by Mitt Romney and backed by the #NeverTrump movement is for voters to back the candidate with the best chance to deny Trump on a state-by-state basis, at this point either Cruz or Kasich.
Cruz pulled out some “dirty tricks” to win Iowa https://t.co/WLYaxNrXrP
— Absolute Rights (@absoluterights) February 4, 2016
Cruz is keeping up his side with not only primary wins in redder states to the west but also working the process to Hoover up more delegates as the nitty-gritty of the selection process plays out.
But Kasich’s presumed advantage in blue states isn’t materializing, according to polls. Fox News polls out Sunday show Kasich getting smoked like a herring in New York and stuffed in the same pierogi as Cruz in Pennsylvania. Nor is there much good news for Kasich in the latest poll from Maryland.
We don’t have any clues yet about other purportedly happy hunting grounds for Kasich: Delaware, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. And allocation rules in the six late-April states could certainly help Kasich snag some delegates.
Plus, Cruz isn’t showing any signs of clearing a path for Kasich in these states (in the same way that Kasich vainly tried to play spoiler in Wisconsin). Cruz seems determined instead to march headfirst into the late-April buzz saw and grab what scant delegates he can in hopes that he can endure until the map improves for him in May and June.
Whether he can improve his lot or not, Kasich, who still trails former candidate Marco Rubio in the delegate hunt, is looking to garner enough delegates to spoil the chances of both Trump and Cruz and force the convention into protracted balloting.
Let’s assume Kasich, who has won about 6 percent of the delegates awarded so far, had a great finish and won a quarter of those remaining, he would finish with a little better than 300 delegates bound to him in Cleveland. That’s not a building block for a majority, that’s an asset to be deployed to make a deal.
While Kasich’s campaign believes that the bound delegates for Cruz and Trump will flood to Kasich’s side on electability grounds when they are released, bear in mind that Kasich’s delegates would be released by that point too. They would all be free agents.
And the electability argument on the third ballot and beyond from Rubio or Carly Fiorina or Mike Pence or Scott Walker or any Republican with a puncher’s chance in the fall could be just as valid as the one from Kasich, who, like everyone else, would have no delegates to command anymore. And many of the others will be able to augment an electability argument with the promise of conservatism more stalwart than Kasich’s.
In a way, Cruz represents a greater danger than Trump to Kasich’s plan. Cruz could get close enough and then rely on some combination of Rubio’s support and/or unbound delegates to win on an early ballot. Those are all delegates that Kasich very much needs. Kasich and Cruz are playing the same game, but Cruz is playing it better.
There is one other role available to Kasich: the man who delivers the nomination to Trump. If Trump accepts Kasich as running mate with actual influence over the campaign and Kasich unbinds his delegates, it might be enough to put Trump over the top on the first ballot. Remember also that Kasich and Trump have advisers, Paul Manafort and Charlie Black, who were former business partners and longtime friends.
At least, some Kasich backers still believe that despite all evidence to the contrary Trump is a better general election bet than Cruz. Certainly Cruz’s hard-nosed conservatism has been an enemy of much longer standing for the GOP establishment than Trump’s brand of populism.
That means a strategy that would 1) hurt Cruz the most, 2) leave a long-shot bid open to Kasich and 3) might end up with Trump as the GOP’s standard-bearer would sound more appealing to Kasich and his backers than anything else currently on offer.
Source: Fox News