Biggish news from talk show host (and new Trump nemesis) Charlie Sykes:
BREAKING: Kasich campaign immediately pulling all radio ads from Wisconsin markets.
— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) March 28, 2016
Not true, says Team Kasich. Or at least, not entirely true:
Why would Kasich be “reallocating”? Simple: Money. Remember, according to the latest campaign financial reports, there’s every reason to believe that Team Kasich is running on fumes financially. He has to make a play for Wisconsin — imagine the embarrassment if the guy who won Ohio had to cede WI to Trump and Cruz — but cash is apparently tight enough that he has no choice but to try to pick his spots. The Wisconsin primary is winner-take-all by congressional district with some bonus delegates awarded to the statewide winner so it makes some sense for Kasich to focus his precious remaining resources only on districts where he runs most strongly.
In theory he could win the state if he piled up enough votes in just a few populous districts, but he’d need to win those districts big — and no one expects Kasich to blow out Trump and Cruz anywhere. What he’s really telling you with this move, I think, is that he’s given up on trying to win Wisconsin statewide and is focused now on grabbing a few delegates here and there where he can. He has just an 11 percent chance of winning the state versus 67 percent for Cruz and 22 percent for Trump. (On the other hand, a new automated survey has it, er, Trump 29, Kasich 27, Cruz 25, a devastating bit of underperformance by Cruz if it’s borne out next Tuesday. Gulp.) Which makes me wonder: Given his fundraising problems, could Kasich pull the plug next week if he ends up being shut out in Wisconsin?
And if he did, how sure are we at this point that Cruz would benefit from him dropping out? If you missed it Friday, read Dave Wasserman on what a two-front war waged by Cruz and Kasich against Trump over the next two and a half months of primaries might look like:
Of the 894 delegates up for grabs between now and June, 60 are at stake in districts where Obama won in 2012 and at least 40 percent of residents 25 or older hold at least a bachelor’s degree — in other words, Kasich’s “strike zone.” These include districts anchored by the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, New York City’s Upper East Side, the wealthy Maryland suburbs of Washington and the wealthy Connecticut suburbs of New York. Additionally, given his Keystone State roots, Kasich may also be better-positioned than Cruz to compete for Pennsylvania’s 17 statewide delegates.6 They may not sound like much, but these 77 delegates could be the difference between Trump reaching 1,237 and falling short.
Meanwhile, Cruz is probably Trump’s more viable opponent most everywhere else. Cruz’s bread and butter is deeply red locales. So far, Cruz has won 43 percent of votes cast in jurisdictions where Obama took less than 20 percent of the vote in 2012, but just 18 percent in places where Obama took more than 60 percent. By contrast, Trump’s share of the vote appears to be fairly steady across red and blue zones, but in terms of education, his coalition is the opposite of Kasich’s: Trump fares best in the least-educated locales.
Kasich’s strength in California cities, in particular, is crucial given the growing likelihood that the “Stop Trump” effort will come down to CA on June 7th. Trump will probably be in striking distance of 1,237 delegates; whether he gets there before the convention or has to suffer a nerve-wracking first ballot in Cleveland will probably depend on how many of California’s 172 delegates he wins. The LA Times published a new poll yesterday showing Cruz within a point of Trump among Republican likely voters, 36/35, which sounds like encouraging news for anti-Trumpers. California, like Wisconsin, is also winner-take-all by congressional district, though, and Trump is ahead of Cruz among registered voters in the state’s two most populous regions, 38/29 in southern California and 29/26 in LA/SF/SD/SC/Fresno. Kasich pulls 11 and 15 percent in those districts, respectively. It seems highly unlikely that he’ll have the funds to make it all the way to June so you might as well start gaming out where those votes are likely to go once he’s gone. Cruz will almost certainly have to make the goal-line stand in California by himself.
In case you missed it in Headlines, enjoy Hugh Hewitt’s imaginative rendering of how Kasich might approach Cruz at the convention. I’m the only one who can beat Hillary, he’d tell Cruz, so howzabout we form a Kasich/Cruz ticket and then you become nominee in 2024 after eight years as my VP? You think Cruz is willing to bet on the national electorate electing Republicans to three consecutive terms, especially given the way demographics are shifting? C’mon. Exit question: If Kasich drops out after Wisconsin, that would leave Ted Cruz, scourge of “New York values,” one on one against Trump in his home state of New York on April 19th. How do you suppose that’s likely to go? I told you the “New York values” thing was a mistake.