Election 2020

Kasich Campaign Declares Ohio Governor Now Trump's Top Competition

(AP Photo by Monica Jorge)

Before Wisconsin was even called for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tonight, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s campaign declared “the nomination contest is wide open.”

Both Cruz and Donald Trump have been calling for Kasich to drop out, complaining that he’s siphoning their votes.

In Wisconsin, Kasich came in third place as expected. But he’d already moved on to campaigning in New York, where he sees vulnerability for a candidate like Cruz among a more moderate GOP.

“This week will be remembered as the one in which Ted Cruz and Donald Trump both effectively admitted they will not reach the GOP Convention with enough bound delegates to be the nominee,” Kasich’s chief strategist, John Weaver, said in a memo to supporters.

“Rather than admit their own electoral and political shortcomings, they are blaming John Kasich, the only Republican who can defeat Hillary Clinton in November.”

Weaver stressed that “no one will reach 1,237,” a possibility Cruz acknowledged in his victory speech when he vowed to win the majority of delegates “either before Cleveland or at the convention.” At a CNN town hall on March 29, Cruz insisted that the convention was “not remotely” the path he’d use to get the nod. “Our path forward is to get 1,237,” he said then.

“Tonight’s results will solidify the fact that no candidate will reach Cleveland with 1,237 bound delegates. Heading into today, Ted Cruz was already mathematically eliminated, needing 102% of outstanding bound delegates. Donald Trump needs to win 2/3 of remaining bound delegates,” Weaver said.

Kasich is now Trump’s top competition, the strategist argued.

The memo said the Wall Street Journal “correctly” noted in an editorial today that “Kasich has more political appeal than Mr. Cruz in the southern New England and mid-Atlantic states that are more suburban and moderate.”

“That is confirmed by our internal data, which shows Gov. Kasich running a close second to Trump throughout the eastern seaboard and leading in many critical Congressional Districts,” Weaver wrote.

The WSJ noted that Kasich “defeats Hillary Clinton by 6.3 points in current head-to-head polls, according to the Real Clear Politics average. Mr. Cruz loses by 3.1 and Mr. Trump by 10.8. Changing these polls would require gut renovations of the Trump and Cruz public images that will be hard for either to execute.”

“Mr. Kasich did the public service of winning Ohio’s delegates—with which Mr. Trump might have locked up the nomination—and he deserves a chance to see if he can win Pennsylvania or pick up delegates in the East and California. He has no hope of reaching 1,237 delegates before the convention, but what Messrs. Trump and Cruz really fear is that the convention might want to nominate a potential winner.”

Weaver wrote that not only do polls show Kasich “is the only candidate who can defeat Hillary Clinton” but he cited a Cook Political Report survey to argue “only John Kasich can prevent massive GOP down-ballot losses.”

With 51 percent of precincts reporting in Wisconsin, Cruz had 51.6 percent, Trump had 31.9 percent and Kasich had 14.2 percent of the vote.

The Trump campaign focused its statement on “Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” calling him “worse than a puppet — he is a Trojan horse, being used by the party bosses to steal the nomination from Mr. Trump.”

“We have total confidence that Mr. Trump will go on to win in New York, where he holds a substantial lead in all the polls, and beyond.”