With the news that Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) will suspend his fruitless campaign for president Wednesday at 5PM it’s worth asking the obvious question: Why now?
Kasich lost every single caucus and primary over the past several months except for his home state of Ohio. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has more delegates for the nomination than Kasich and he’s been out of the race for weeks. So why stay in as long as he did just to drop out when the race finally comes down to just two candidates?
Let’s focus on a few key moments of the past several weeks that could lend one to believe that Kasich’s main goal was not to win the nomination (obviously) and not to stop Donald Trump from locking up the nomination. No, it appears Kasich’s main goal was to stop Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and he succeeded.
March 17: Trump announces he will not show up on the debate stage for a Mar. 21 Fox News debate. Following Rubio’s defection from the race that week, the debate was shaping up to be the big moment for Trump to face-off with Cruz and Kasich in a three-man race. Trump’s announcement gives Kasich his opportunity to share the stage with Cruz thus giving him half of the debate time (something he’d been begging for) and instead, he inexplicably announces that if Trump doesn’t show up, neither will he. (CNN)
Kasich strategist John Weaver issued a statement indicating that the Ohio governor would skip the debate unless Trump reversed his decision.
“If he changes his mind, we will be there,” Weaver said.
We've endured @JohnKasich whining at every debate about how he doesn't get enough time to talk. Now he finally gets his chance and he bails?
— Larry O'Connor (@LarryOConnor) March 16, 2016
Why? Kasich would have been in a two-man debate where he’d have his chance to make his case tot he American people opposite Cruz. As David Drucker reported at the time:
Republican operatives were at a loss to explain how Kasich’s move helps in the effort to derail Trump. The New York celebrity businessman is the clear front-runner in the race, and announced Wednesday that he was skipping the debate. Kasich’s only hope is forcing a contested convention in which the delegates nominate a candidate other than the one who won a plurality of the vote in the primaries and caucuses.
It made no sense at the time only because analysts were asking from the perspective of whether Kasich has helped or harmed by the move. But, if you shoot the decision through the perspective of “Who does this hurt the most?” it’s clear that by cancelling the debate he robbed Cruz from a prime opportunity to make the case for constitutional conservatism without Trump getting in the way. The move hurt Cruz and, therefore, it helped Trump.
April 1: Kasich’s Super PAC goes after Cruz with a bizarre ad showing the Texas Senator’s nose grotesquely growing like Pinocchio.
The ad uses Trump’s devastating nickname “Lyin’ Ted.” It hurts Cruz, and it uses Trump’s tactics to do so.
April 25: Fresh off a late-night announcement that Kasich and Cruz had an agreement to focus their spending and campaigning in a way that allowed Cruz to go all-in in Indiana in an effort to block Trump from securing the nomination, Kasich unilaterally destroys the alliance before the toner was dry on the press release: (WaPo)
By Monday morning, Kasich was already well on his way to undermining that alliance.
“I’ve never told [Indiana voters] not to vote for me,” Kasich told reporters in Philadelphia. “They ought to vote for me. But I’m not over there campaigning and spending resources.”
Then on Tuesday morning in an appearance on the “Today Show,” Kasich reiterated that “I’m not telling people anything in Indiana because I’m not campaigning in Indiana.” He then noted “I’m not out to stop Donald Trump” before adding: “I think you’re having a hard time figuring this out.”
Not only did his statements undermine the alliance and effectively negate whatever strategy the campaigns had agreed to the night before, but it made Cruz look desperate and ineffective by forging the alliance in the first place.
Again, Kasich’s actions hurt Cruz.
April 28: Fellow Ohio Establishment Republican John Boehner announces that Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh.”
“Lucifer in the flesh,” the former speaker said. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”
Boehner described other Republican candidates as friends. In particular, the former speaker said he has played golf with Donald Trump for years and that they were “texting buddies.”
As Allahpundit put it at the time:
I’ll vote for Trump against Hillary but I won’t vote for Cruz, Boehner added, another small clue from within “the system” about who can and can’t be trusted with its welfare. In fact, being a golf buddy of John Boehner’s is practically the textbook definition of being part of “the system” — or was, until about 10 months ago — but oh well. Imagine Cruz’s confusion today.
To be fair, Kasich’s fingerprints aren’t on this one. However, Boehner and Kasich go way back. They’re both Buskeyes and they served in the House together. Beohner endorsed Kasich for the White House in March.
Bottom line: Boehner is “Team Kasich” and his words were devastating for Cruz.
Which brings us to today’s bizarre decision to leave the race just as he has the chance to go head-to-head with Trump in an effort to block him from winning the nomination on the first ballot in Cleveland. Why now? If he had dropped out last month the anti-Trump vote wouldn’t have been split between Kasich and Cruz. It’s not like Kasich’s chances are worse today than they were yesterday (or for the past several months for that matter.)
But he hangs it up now, hours after Cruz bows out. Why? Mission accomplished?
Robert Eno wrote at Conservative Review about the obvious fact that Washington Republicans and establishment Republicans fear a Cruz Presidency much more than they fear a Trump presidency. It’s hard to argue the fact seeing how Cruz has been treated in this process.
It’s undeniable that Kasich staying in as long as he did hurt Cruz and helped Trump. So, maybe that was Kasich’s plan from the beginning, not to block Trump, but to block Cruz. And what does he get in return?
— The Hill (@thehill) May 4, 2016