Can John Kasich deliver for the #NeverTrump contingent in the Buckeye State? The governor of Ohio tells Robin Roberts on ABC’s Good Morning America that he feels confident of a win in Ohio, and a decent delegate haul in Illinois as well. With Donald Trump lined up for a big win in Florida, Ohio may be the biggest — and last — firewall against a Trump majority on the first ballot at the Republican convention:
Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he has to win and expects to do well in his home state of Ohio among the Republican primaries today, adding he’ll also do well in other states.
“You’ll see tonight. We’re going to win Ohio,” Kasich said in an interview on “Good Morning America.”
“We have to win.”
He added: “We’re going to do better in Illinois that anybody thinks.”
Kasich might be up against an Operation Chaos project in his home state, at least according to anonymous callers into C-SPAN:
Democrat in Ohio tells @cspan he & 172 other Ds in his county voting for Trump today to divide GOP.
Will vote Hillary/Bernie in November.
— Steven Dennis (@StevenTDennis) March 15, 2016
Er … suuuuuure. Hillary Clinton faces a serious challenge from Bernie Sanders in Ohio after his big upset in neighboring Michigan, and supporters of both candidates will be highly motivated to vote in their own primary. The RCP average shows Hillary only up eight points over Bernie, and two weeks ago she blew a 21-point lead in the other key Rust Belt state. The Democratic race runs even closer in Illinois, where the gap is just 2.3 points. The number of Democrats wishing to take a pass on that contest in order to influence the GOP election will be minimal at most.
Kasich actually looks as though he’s in position to beat Trump, at least according to the most recent polls. The last five polls listed by RCP has Kasich up outside the margin of error in three, and flat-out tied with Trump in two. It’s the closest race of the night, and may come down to a wire-to-wire finish. In my column for The Week, I remind readers that a Kasich win can slow Trump, but Kasich will still end up on the sidelines:
John Kasich faces better — and worse — news in Ohio. The two-term governor knows how to turn out voters, and most polling shows him with narrow leads over Trump. Ohio has a mixed primary rather than a closed primary, but Kasich’s ground operation can be counted on for a strong turnout.
The bad news for Kasich: It may not matter, at least in terms of a traditional nomination fight. Ohio’s 66 delegates would leave him behind Rubio even if Trump wins Florida. As Robert Eno writes at theConservative Review, even winning delegates from the other three proportionally allocated contests in line with Kasich’s current polling puts his possible delegate total at the end of tonight at 140. The remaining contests only have 1,009 delegates left to allocate, so even if Kasich ran the table, he would come up almost 100 delegates short of the 1,237 needed to win the nomination on the first ballot.
I’ll have more on this later tonight, but make no mistake about this — Kaisch’s playing for a floor fight in Cleveland, not for a first-ballot nomination. The ticket to that fight is a home-state win over Trump, one that will give Kasich the kind of credibility as a general-election candidate capable of carrying swing states that Marco Rubio will lack if he loses Florida, and that Cruz has not yet demonstrated but may in Missouri tonight.