Other Opinions

Why is Kasich still in the race?

Jennifer Rubin
Jennifer Rubin

COLUMN BY JENNIFER RUBIN

Kasich not only came in third, but also came in a distant third in a Midwestern state that should have been ideally suited for his message of good governance. He has now come in third or worse in all Midwestern states (i.e. Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois) other than his own.

With just over 155,000 votes and 14 percent of the vote in Wisconsin, Kasich managed to win less than half of second-place Trump's vote totals (more than 386,000 and 35 percent). Kasich now has finished third or worse in 26 of the 32 contests. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) dropped out of the race more than three weeks ago and still has more delegates (171 to 143) and about a half-million more popular votes than Kasich. If Kasich could not win in Wisconsin or any other nearby state, does anyone imagine he will win, say, Maryland?

It is hard to image a scenario in which, even in a deadlocked convention, delegates turn to the candidate who may have finished so poorly in their state -- a proven loser, if you will.

The only issue that matters, Kasich spinners would have us believe, is electability. Bunk. The winner of what will be a six-month primary process is the Republican nominee, and it is Republicans' support that Kasich has failed to get over and over since Feb. 1. If the issue were only electability, maybe Rubio or House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would do better. (If Cruz beats Hillary Clinton in new polling, will Kasich get out?)

There is nothing wrong with Kasich's argument that an effective governor would be the GOP's best choice. The problem is that Republican voters do not agree, or at least they do not agree that Kasich is the right governor to match up against Clinton. All this leads to one of two conclusions about his continued presence in the race.

One explanation is that Kasich in his own way is more out of touch with reality than Trump. His ego will not allow him to exit the spotlight, and he has convinced himself that he's the party's savior. Egged on by greedy consultants, he refuses to recognize his campaign is futile.

The other explanation is that he is still angling for VP, despite his denials. If it is Cruz's VP spot he wants, he will have to get in line behind actual allies like Carly Fiorina and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. If he seeks to become Trump's VP, he is as cynical and hypocritical as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who backs Trump despite his recognition of Trump's unfitness for the presidency.

Why does this matter? The campaign is turning to New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania, states Kasich cannot win but where he is polling in double digits. In the latest Quinnipiac poll from Pennsylvania, for example, Cruz at 30 percent is only 9 points behind Trump, but Kasich takes up 24 percent of the vote. Cruz and the #NeverTrump forces could use those voters.

At this stage in the race, all Kasich can do is prevent Cruz from finally consolidating the #NeverTrump vote, thereby handing delegate-rich states to Trump. Either ego or the quixotic and hypocritical quest for a VP slot keeps Kasich in the race. Voters who dread a Trump nomination should drive a stake through the Kasich campaign, if they really want to stop Trump. Just because Kasich won't get out of the race does not mean voters should continue to indulge him.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Washington Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

  Comments