It’s gonna be weird when the conventional wisdom from #NeverTrump righties shifts from “Kasich must drop out NOW” to “Kasich must NEVER drop out.”
And it’s gonna be weirder when Kasich drops out at that precise moment.
The Franklin and Marshall College Poll being released Thursday shows Kasich with 30 percent of the support among likely Republican voters while Trump is at 33 percent and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is at 20 percent.
Kasich is a Pennsylvania native, raised in McKees Rocks, near Pittsburgh.
Trump, a New Yorker, often speaks of attending the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Kasich has been on the rise for weeks. He was at just 3 percent in January and 15 percent in February.
The remaining 17 percent in the poll are undecided, although within that very small subsample (of just 51 people), 25 percent are leaning Cruz versus 16 percent for Trump and 13 percent for Kasich. Another 46 percent say they’re genuinely undecided, which I think bodes well for Cruz and Kasich. Anyone who’s resisted Trump to this point is probably pretty firmly opposed to him; the undecided vote here may be mostly a matter of people holding back to see whether Cruz or Kasich looks more likely to win the state and then breaking for that candidate. (Rise of the anti-Trump strategic voter?) Just one minor detail in all this: Does it, er, matter who wins Pennsylvania? Winning the primary would be a nice feather in the cap for the victor for all the usual reasons — PA has more electoral votes in the general election than most states, it’s a study in contrasts with major urban areas and huge rural tracts, it’s a bellwether for winning working-class votes in the Rust Belt, and so on. There are 71 delegates at stake too, more than there were in Ohio a few weeks ago. It’s a huge prize! Except for one thing:
Most of Pennsylvania’s 71 Republican delegates are technically uncommitted. This year, party rules changed to require 14 “at large” delegates selected by party leaders to vote for the winner of the state’s primary, but only on the first ballot at the national convention. Three “automatic” delegates — state GOP Chairman Bob Gleason, National Committeeman Bob Asher and National Committeewoman Christine Toretti — are legally bound to vote for the winner on the first ballot only. The remaining 54 delegates, elected by Republican primary voters in each of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts — three per district — are uncommitted.
There are only 17 bound delegates at stake, nearly identical to the 16 at stake in tiny Delaware. A Cruz comeback in Pennsylvania would thus be nice for narrative-building purposes, proof that he’s building momentum in a late push to stop Trump, but it’d do next to nothing to actually dent Trump’s lead. Team Cruz is less concerned with winning Pennsylvania, I’m sure, than it is in putting its organizational resources towards getting pro-Cruz delegates elected statewide.
As for the idea that the winner of the primary might be a threat to take Pennsylvania in the general election, yeah, no:
So much for the idea that Trump’s going to put the Rust Belt in play. The most encouraging thing you can say about those numbers is that he’s really no more radioactively unpopular among the general electorate than Cruz is, a contrast to yesterday’s national poll by Bloomberg in which Cruz was Three-Mile-Island unpopular while Trump was Chernobyl unpopular. Bloomberg had Cruz’s favorables at 32/55, with 32 percent saying they view him “very unfavorably.” Trump’s numbers were … 29/68, with 53 percent — a clear majority! — in the “very unfavorable” category. If the GOP were up against a talented Democratic nominee this fall, it might be looking at another Goldwater-esque drubbing. As it is, because Hillary’s a weak candidate, it probably won’t be much worse than Obama’s 2008 margin over McCain. Probably.
One last point about the “should Kasich stay or go?” question. I’ve seen several people on social media claim that the rules of Ohio’s Republican Party are such that if the winner of the Ohio primary drops out before the convention, his delegates do not become unbound. Rather they’re awarded to the second-place finisher — which would be Donald J. Trump. If Kasich quits, in other words, then Trump wins Ohio after all. I’ve tried finding proof of that online, though, and keep coming up empty. Anyone have a link stating that rule clearly and authoritatively? If so, please send it along and I’ll update. Obviously that matters a lot when calculating whether Kasich should stay in the race or not.
Update: Nope, says Phil Kerpen, it’s not true that Trump inherits Kasich’s Ohio delegates if Kasich drops out.