From the beginning we’ve known that Ohio Governor John Kasich’s primary strategy was crazy. Crazy like a fox?
After all the sturm und drang following Super Tuesday we’ve been focusing on the twin, winner take all states of Florida and Ohio next week. The shattered remains of the “conventional wisdom” in this most unconventional season holds that if Donald Trump can take both of those states we’ve reached the end of the shooting match. Such an outcome would finally seal the fate of both Marco Rubio and John Kasich, leaving Trump with a significant and perhaps insurmountable lead over Ted Cruz. But as of last night a new Fox Poll shows that you should probably refill your popcorn bag because the Ohio governor has surged into a lead barely outside the margins on his home turf.
Unlike some of the other states we’ve rolled through recently, there’s been comparatively little early voting. Only 9% of respondents said they’d already voted (with Trump having previously held a wide lead) so 90% of the voters still have time to be swayed and make up their minds. These voters are also apparently not the type to wait until the last minute and decide as they enter the voting booth. As this tab shows, most of them have made up their minds.
Trump is also plagued in this survey by the fact that while his supporters are very loyal, he’s really not the second choice for many of the rest. The pageant for second choice shows Kasich on top at 21%, with Rubio and Cruz coming in second and third at 19 and 17 respectively. Trump only manages 12% in this category. (This is a solidified electorate, with 32% not even offering a specific second choice.)
Unlike Florida, where Trump is still blazing his way toward a near majority this week, Ohio will be the big test case of how their state strategy is working out. Keep in mind that it was only in September of last year that Ohio’s state Republican Party moved their primary to the second Tuesday after the first Monday of the month and declared it winner take all. Sources in Cleveland reported at the time that this was done specifically to bolster the chances of Kasich on the assumption that he could pick up that slug of 66 delegates. (That figure includes three “Party Leader” delegates who will also be bound to the winner on the first ballot at the convention.)
A sudden gain of 66 delegates for Kasich is obviously good news for him and may deliver some momentum, but there’s at least as good of a chance that this is a one off and he remains trailing the pack for the rest of the contest. The bigger effect is on Trump who needs to capture slightly more than half of the remaining delegates up for grabs in order to lock in the nomination on the first ballot. He has the shortest distance to go of any of them, but Ted Cruz is still roughly 100 delegates behind him and could catch up quickly with a couple of winner take all victories.
As usual, I’ll close with the caveat that this is just one poll. We’ll have several more on Friday and Saturday and I won’t pin a lot of weight on this one until I see it repeated. Of course, for that matter, Hillary was up by 20 in Michigan before Tuesday and she wound up losing. Who knows what’s going to happen this year? But that’s what you get when you live to see interesting times.