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Kasich's political survival may depend on a few big donors

A small number of big-money backers are helping to keep John Kasich’s campaign for the presidency afloat financially, but analysts are asking whether that previously ardent support is close to drying up.

The questions come in the wake of a meeting in Washington last week in which the Ohio governor’s advisers told supporters there is still a “pathway to victory” via the convention, and hammered home the fact that all polls show he has the best chance of beating either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in November.

The scenario sketched out to donors was that Trump now has little chance of securing enough delegates to win outright ahead of the convention, and that Kasich, by surviving the primaries, will be the best Republican candidate heading into the general election.

That would mean a change in a rule introduced in 2012, which stated a candidate must win delegate majorities in at least eight states in order to have his or her name officially placed in nomination at the convention.
But whether Kasich lasts that long is the question, said Dan Birdsong, a lecturer in political science at the University of Dayton, Ohio. After the victory in his home state of Ohio, Kasich set his sights on surviving until, and winning in, Pennsylvania, said Birdsong.

Yet the latest polls show Kasich in third place in Pennsylvania. The Quinnipiac University poll has Donald Trump at 39 percent and Ted Cruz at 30 percent, with Kasich at just 24 percent.

At some point, Kasich, though running a relatively low-budget campaign, “is going to be running out of money,” said Birdsong, adding that the Super PAC cash could dry up.

Federal Election Commission filings to the end of February show that the Kasich-supporting Super PAC, New Day for America, secured big-money donations of $250,000 to $1 million from a small number of sources in the first two months of the year.

The biggest boost to the Super PAC came from Boich, an Ohio coal-mining support company headed by Wayne Boich, a long time Kasich supporter. He provided $1 million. Hedge fund billionaire Julian Robertson gave $500,000, as did George - Pearl Rd. Ltd., a company owned by Tony George, who runs a string of restaurants in Ohio.

Stanley Druckenmiller, also a hedge fund manager, donated $300,000, while Thomas Rastin, the chief executive of the Akron, Ohio-based manufacturing company Ariel Corp, gave the same amount. Last year, Rasin gave $1 million to the Super PAC.

Political scientist Birdsong, who has followed Kasich’s career for some time, said the governor may be motivated to stay in this presidential race by other impulses.

“Every move he has made is what you to do to make a serious run for the presidency,” said Birdsong. “First Washington as a congressman, then some time in the private sector, then the next move, the typical path through the governorship.”

Birdsong also believes the fact the convention is in Cleveland, in his home state of Ohio, may also play a part in his decision to stay in the race when “most people would have gotten out by now.”

He is also motivated, said Birdsong, by his belief that Trump is dangerous, and that Cruz has no chance of breaking beyond his conservative base and winning in November.

“These party bosses and ward heelers, you think they want to get skunked in their wards or in their neighborhoods?” Kasich said, speaking on the campaign trail in Greece, N.Y., on Saturday, according to a report in the New York Times.  “Because Cruz and Trump are going to get killed in the fall. I mean, they cannot win.”