In the bizarro world that is 2016 presidential politics, John Kasich has become the protest vote against the protest votes. Appealing to that odd subset of Republicans that detest Donald Trump but somehow cannot bring themselves to cast a vote for the only man with a feasible path to stopping him, Kasich’s small and stagnant group is hardly a coalition becoming of a winner.
But until this point, Kasich’s role as spoiler has largely come at the expense of Ted Cruz. States like Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina may have shifted toward Cruz were it not for the governor siphoning off anti-Trump votes.
That all changes now as, for the remainder of April, the race shifts to six states above the Mason-Dixon line. Conventional wisdom tells us that this is Trump country and, given that all of the bloviating obnoxiousness up to this point hasn’t seemed to deter these voters, it will take nothing short of a tectonic shift in the direction of the race for Cruz to even be competitive in most of these states.
Enter John Kasich, whose moderate, New England appeal can be a major asset to the #NeverTrump movement. If Kasich can keep even a few percentage points in these states away from Trump, thereby keeping him from reaching the 50% threshold in a district here and a district there, it could be the small bumps needed to ultimately trip up Trump on his road to 1237.
And that’s where it becomes tricky, since no one seems to be completely certain of what Kasich’s motivations actually are. If, as he claims, he truly believes that indignantly staying in the mix will somehow make him more palatable in an open convention scenario to someone like Cruz or even Marco Rubio, then he may be delusional, but his delusion should prove helpful in the upcoming contests.
If, on the other hand, he believes his presence increases his bargaining power when the time comes for one of the candidates to make a play to remove him from the race, I would wager that you can expect to see the governor make his exit in the very near future, certainly before next Tuesday’s New York primary.
Trump and his team are well-aware that his chances of being the Republican nominee decrease significantly if the convention floor opens. If he is unable to coast to blowout victories on his home turf, his chances of reaching the magic number become increasingly slim. Kasich joining the fold as Trump’s running mate makes sense; the governor of a state containing millions of moderate, white, working class voters, Kasich’s “adult in the room” persona presents a counterbalance to the name-calling Twitter troll at the top of the ticket. If they haven’t already, I would bet the farm that Trump’s campaign will be reaching out to Kasich soon to see if they can convince him to bow out.
Whether or not his integrity is worth more than a shot at being at the right hand of the president, we’ll just have to wait to find out.