In 2013, looking ahead to his reelection race the next year, Ohio Governor John Kasich was more than ready to raise the bar minority parties had to hurdle to get on the ballot. At the time, the governor was reflecting on his narrow win in 2010 and didn’t want a third-party candidate spoiling his romp to victory.
To help him clear the field of would-be challengers who could tarnish his run, a friendly Republican legislature passed a bill that made it more difficult for non-major political parties to get their candidate on the ballot.
“We haven’t had any law here for six or seven years. If you want to run as an independent, that’s good. Fine, you sign 2,500 signatures — or whatever it is. But if you want to be considered a major party, you ought to show you have a little scale and a little bit of mass. I think that’s reasonable. We’ll see what happens with the legislature,” he said at the time.
Fast forward to 2016, when he’s running again for president and finds himself able to finish first in only one state so far, Ohio, after about 30 primary elections. John Kasich sees things differently, especially now that his poor performance would exclude him from being considered for nomination at the Republican National Convention scheduled for Cleveland in July if a current rule isn’t changed.
The behind the scenes tussle brewing now is whether Republicans should keep the current rule that demands that a candidate win a minimum of eight states to be eligible for nomination. If the rule isn’t changed, Gov. Kasich, who remains in the race as one of three behind Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, is eliminated from consideration to be the party’s nominee, since he’s only finished first once and his prospects of finishing first in the remaining state primaries seems a bad bet.
Mr. Kasich’s every changing political mindset as to what he thinks is good for others versus what he thinks is good for him is on full display now that he’s on the receiving end of rules that would hurt his chances. At issue in 2013 was Senate Bill 193, which had not one Democratic vote for it and had several Republicans joining Democrats in opposing it. Background on the bill goes back to a federal court in 2006 that declared some of Ohio’s previous hurdles for minor-party labels to appear on the ballot unconstitutional.
At the time, minor parties, including the Libertarian, Green, Constitution, and Socialist parties would be on the 2014 ballot thanks to a directive issued by Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted in the absence of an enforceable law, according to reports. When Gov. Kasich signed SB 193, those spots disappeared.
As the reality of a contested convention in Cleveland grows, the rule known as Rule 40(b), which was adopted at the party’s 2012 convention and requires a candidate to win a majority of delegates in at least eight states to be considered for the nomination, is the center of attention. In second place in delegates, Ted Cruz says it would be a “terrible idea” for “Washington power brokers” to change the rules because they’re unhappy with the crop of candidates the voters have picked, according to the Washington Times. Donald Trump, who has won the most states and holds the largest number of delegates, is the only candidate to hurdle the threshold so far. Ted Cruz has won at least eight states, but due to proportionality rules, he hasn’t won a majority of the delegates in all of them.
Gov. John Kasich said Thursday that the convention rules for 2016 are not yet set in stone, and that the rules committee would make those determinations.
John Kasich is fighting to change the rules to benefit him this year, a sharp contrast from two years ago when he wanted the rules change to protect him from other candidates. “When you’re a delegate at a convention and you have a candidate who beats Hillary Clinton in the last Fox poll by 11 points, and we’re going to say that guy doesn’t get considered?” Kasich said on Fox News recently. “I mean, come on. That’s not going to happen.”
With more states yet to vote , some Republicans are saying a candidate like Kasich has lots of opportunity to meet the threshold. “We’re not going to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” said Randy Evans, a national committeeman from Georgia.
A week before the convention in Cleveland, the 2016 convention rules committee will meet to adopt a package of recommended rules. The committee consists of two delegates from each state and territory, adding up to 112 delegates in total, and a majority of convention delegates ultimately have to adopt the committee’s report.
Donald Trump is staffing up for this possibility, announcing the opening of a Washington, D.C.-based office to coordinate his campaign’s work with the RNC, Congress and his convention and delegate operations. He’s hired Paul J. Manafort, who worked on conventions for former Presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Manafort will serve as his campaign’s convention manager.
Gov. Kasich would like to win Wisconsin next Tuesday, but polls show him winning just two congressional districts while other polls show him finishing third behind Trump and Cruz, who could add Wisconsin to his list of first-place wins. “We’re going to do well in New York. We’re going to be competitive here [in Pennsylvania],” Kasich said, knowing “doing well” and being “competitive” isn’t the same as finishing first.
Reporters who follow Gov. Kasich know he’s at his best when the deck is stacked in his favor, which he’s been able to do in Ohio but no where else.