Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s chief strategist called the race for the GOP nomination “a whole new ballgame” after Kasich easily took the state and its 66 delegates.
With 93 percent of precincts reporting, Kasich had 46.4 percent in the critical swing state compared to 36.1 percent for Donald Trump. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had 13.4 percent, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — who had asked his voters to vote for Kasich in Ohio — got just 2.3 percent.
“As we’ve long predicted and planned for, John Kasich won Ohio tonight, resetting the race,” strategist John Weaver wrote in a memo.
Weaver argued that the evening proved six points, beginning with Kasich’s “positive message and proven record can overcome the Donald Trump insult machine” and “no candidate will win 1237 delegates.”
Meet the Press host Chuck Todd noted on Twitter that Trump “needs 50%+ consistently” to avoid a battle at the convention, but did not clear that benchmark anywhere tonight and has passed 45 percent in only four states.
As the Kasich camp has long argued, Weaver argued that the Ohio governor is best poised to tackle the map moving forward.
“Our internal data shows that Rubio voters break to Gov. Kasich by a 3:1 margin,” Weaver noted in the memo issued before Rubio suspended his campaign. “With the electoral map shifting significantly in our favor, Gov. Kasich is positioned to accumulate a large share of the almost 1,000 remaining delegates and enter Cleveland in strong position to become the nominee.”
He added that the governor’s financial resources are “growing stronger” as “more and more supporters are coming on board as they recognize Gov. Kasich is the only candidate left who can take on Donald Trump, unite the Party and win the White House in November.”
The Kasich camp added more advisers Tuesday night, including chief political strategist for President Reagan’s gubernatorial and presidential campaigns Stu Spencer, John McCain’s senior presidential campaign adviser Charlie Black, former Dole-Bush-Romney adviser Vin Weber, and former Jeb Bush adviser Tom Ingram.
Weaver’s final point: “Of the 3 remaining viable candidates, only Gov. Kasich will defeat Hillary Clinton in an Electoral College landslide, sweeping in Republicans from the courthouse to the Senate. The other candidates would lose to Hillary Clinton in dramatic fashion and cost us seats in down-ballot races from California to Maine.”
Trump did not mention Kasich in his victory speech after winning Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. He was locked in a tight race with Cruz in Missouri.
After voting Tuesday, Kasich told reporters that he had just caught up on Trump’s rhetoric and would have more to say about it in the coming days.
“I will be, however, forced going forward to talk about some of the deep concerns I have about the way this campaign has been run by some others — by one other, in particular,” Kasich said. “But today is not the day to do that.”
“…But in terms of rolling around in the mud, that’s not where I intend to really ever go.”
At his victory party, Kasich spoke in front of a sign that read, “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation.”
Kasich has said he expects and welcomes a brokered convention — on his home turf in Cleveland this July.