John Kasich is campaigning for president as the practical candidate who can go to Washington and get things done. When it comes to landing his own party’s nomination, however, gridlock is the Ohio governor’s best friend.
“No one’s going to win on the first ballot," Kasich campaign adviser Andrew Boucher told AMI Newswire. "We know it’s going to be an open convention.”
That's the strategic key for Kasich, who runs a distant third in delegates among those Republican candidates still running for president. In fact, he still trails Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race after losing the Florida primary, way back in the middle of March. The only state Kasich has managed to win so far is his own, Ohio, where he picked up 46.8 percent of the popular vote and all 66 delegates.
And yet Kasich soldiers on, a thorn in the side of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Why?
Because Kasich likes his odds of winning his party’s nomination on the fourth, fifth or sixth ballot, Boucher said.
The first ballot will be a test of Trump’s strength, according to Boucher. The billionaire real estate investor and reality TV star is unlikely to win the required 1,237 delegates he needs.
The second ballot will then be a test of Cruz’s strength. Can the Texas senator get to a majority through aggressive efforts to win delegates who are pledged to Trump on the first vote but will support him thereafter?
Things get pretty crazy after that.
“After the first ballot, 57 percent of the delegates will be unbound,” Boucher said. "After the second ballot, 80 percent of the delegates will be unbound. Florida gets unbound after the third ballot. Anything can happen once these delegates are unbound.”
Boucher’s job for Kasich at that point is to win an entirely new election. There would be 2,472 confused delegates looking for a candidate to nominate, from the existing candidates or any other name they’d like to throw in the hat.
“How do we win a majority of that?” Boucher asked.
“Look at 1920. Look at 1860." From those distant examples, from which presidents Abraham Lincoln and Warren Harding, respectively, emerged, Boucher predicts that “some states will move as blocks, others will be scattered.”
The campaign will eschew any “goodies” for delegates or “strong-arm tactics” and instead “make the case to each individual delegate that John Kasich will be the strongest nominee to win in November.”
Politicians from the 50 states “will be pleading with the delegates in their states” to give them a nominee who will help the party come together and carry the day, in the White House, in Congress, in state legislatures and governors' mansions in November.
Kasich, Boucher said, is the man for the job.
That scenario is about half right, said George Mason political scientist Jeremy Meyer.
“Kasich is not crazy to hope that a deadlocked convention will turn to him,” Meyer told AMI Newswire. "He's the popular governor of a crucial swing state; he polls well against Hillary for the fall. The problem is, a compromise candidate has to be acceptable to some portion of Trump and Cruz supporters, in and out of the hall. So could Kasich end up with it? Yes, but he'd be unlikely to bring GOP unity."
A Cruz supporter and a Trump supporter differed on whether they would accept Kasich as a compromise candidate.
No, said John Zmirak, a Catholics for Cruz signatory. “Gov. Kasich is unacceptable to me because the most important issue is restraining the activism of the Supreme Court," he said. "Kasich has repeatedly scoffed at religious liberty claims, which tells me he can’t be trusted to make court appointments.”
Zmirak would, however, be OK with Kasich as Cruz's running mate, telling AMI Newswire: “He could pick Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, or the ghost of Nelson Rockefeller if it helped him win. Sen. Cruz is young and healthy!”
But Trump supporter Michael Gersh, a partner in an ad agency with “no direct involvement” in politics, said he could go with Kasich grudgingly. Both parties “are taking us down a very dark road," Gersh said. "Political correctness, Title 9, expanding government in general at the expense of the individual.”
For all Trump’s admitted faults, Gersh said, “he can't possibly be worse than the last two statist creeps.” He would support Kasich as a convention compromise because he intends to support the Republican candidate in the general election.
“Even though I feel that the Republicans are as bad as the Democrats, there is a difference in style and rhetoric that leaves me with no one else to vote for. I'll vote for whatever they put up, given the alternatives,” Gersh said.