Here’s a long-shot prediction: Ohio Gov. John Kasich will be back in Ohio Tuesday night ahead of his sixth State of the State [SOTS] address on Wednesday. Why? Because he won’t be holding a thank-you victory to thank Badger State voters for giving him his second first-place finish in more than 30 races so far.
A first-place finish for Ohio’s prickly CEO turned nice guy on the stump would be great expectations achieved, indeed. That’s highly unlikely, but a third-place finish for him will meet conventional expectations.
Badgering The Buckeye
The term-limited governor’s SOTS show in Marietta, his sixth so far and the fifth outside the traditional venue of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, promises to be the best one yet, now that he’s become a part of the national conversation, albeit a small one, on which candidate Republicans should nominate to take on Democrats in the fall. Gov. Kasich has stayed in the GOP race in spite of losing 30 times and winning just once, that one in his home state of Ohio.
In advance of Wisconsin’s primary Tuesday, polling shows Texas Sen. Ted Cruz leading with 35 percent, followed by Donald Trump with 32 percent and Gov. Kasich holding down third place with 23 percent. In the race for delegates, Donald Trump leads with 736 with Cruz at 463 followed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio—who dropped out on March 16—with 171, and 143 for Mr. Kasich.
If Camp Kasich thought their campaign in Wisconsin would bear the ripe fruit of a first-place they suggested could happen, campaign pros would advise holding another confetti-laden victory party like the one he had in Ohio following his only first-place finish that he won even though he only won 46 percent of the vote. But finishing third place isn’t much to ballyhoo about, so getting ready for the big address the next day is where Kasich and his political advisers will direct their candidate’s attention to.
Mr. Kasich, a former Lehman Brothers Wall Street banker and Fox News political talk show host, has stayed the course ala Ronald Reagan, but unlike Reagan, whose course was to win the presidency twice, Gov. Kasich has failed once before and appears likely to travel that road again this year, as he flounders behind Trump and Cruz, who seem ready now to start to out the governor as a spoiler for Trump and a liberal compared to Cruz.
Kasich Admits Trump Spoiler Role
When Donald Trump was in Washington last week to talk things over with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, the New York real estate billionaire complained that Ohio’s governor should get out of the race because he keeps losing. “All he’s doing is just, he goes from place to place, and loses, and he keeps running,” Trump Said, the Washington Post [WaPo] reported. Trump said Gov. Kasich is hurting him but not Cruz. “He’s not taking Cruz’s votes. He’s taking my votes,” Trump said.
John Kasich is also taking fire from Sen. Cruz, who released a video airing in Wisconsin that portrays the 63-year old former congressman as a wheeler-dealer who served on a corporate board [Worthington Industries] who contributed campaign cash to help him while it hurt its workers by eliminating jobs.
A factor that rearing its ugly head for John Kasich at the wrong time comes in his shrinking campaign funds. So far, Camp Kasich’s presidential cash haul has been small with just $12 million raised. A super PAC and other independent groups allied with the governor have $23.5 million. According to federal filings, Gov. Kasich’s campaign has $1.3 million in cash on hand, spending 90 percent of what it has raised so far.
Campaigning in Milwaukee, John Kasich said out loud what the world already knows, that he’s in it to spoil it for Trump. “When we get to Pennsylvania, we get to New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island — let me tell ya, if I drop out, Donald Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee,” Kasich said, WaPo reported. “I’m not out here to stop Donald Trump, but I can tell you the reality of it. I don’t believe Sen. Cruz can come to the east and win. I mean, if you take a look at what we’ve done so far, in Vermont I almost won. In Massachusetts I finished second. In Ohio I won by 11 points. In Michigan there was a lot of early voting, just like there was in Arizona, by the way. But with the late deciders, I won overwhelmingly.”
Doing well isn’t winning, and winning is what counts. The problem everyone with the exception of Mr. Kasich and his staff see is that a third-place finish in Wisconsin, as the polls show will be his fate, isn’t a selling point for voters in New York’s primary two weeks later. While John Kasich keeps looking over the horizon to the next stay he says will treat him better, a “string of losses and an ornery Republican establishment calling for him to quit,” as WaPo’s David Weigel put it, is bad for the Kasich brand.
John Kasich and his team can read the polling tea leafs as well as others, which is why he signaled to not look for him to hold a victory rally Tuesday night in Badger land.
“We’re gonna do fine here,” he said, adding the kicker, “I’m not gonna predict we’re gonna win here.”