John Kasich Shifts Focus to Convention in Nomination Fight

PHOTO: Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at a campaign event, March 23, 2016, in Wauwatosa, Wis.PlayMorry Gash/AP Photo
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Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich has in recent days turned his focus squarely on his party’s convention this summer and the small number of delegates he hopes to win.

The Ohio governor, who trails his two remaining opponents by millions of votes and hundreds of delegates, has argued that his electability in a general election will convince convention delegates to hand him the nomination if his opponents fail to clinch it themselves.

“We’re just going to keep plugging, and we’re continuing to raise money,” Kasich told reporters outside Milwaukee on Wednesday. “I think a convention is going to consider who can win.”

While it is mathematically impossible for him to win 1,237 delegates – and, in effect, the nomination – before the July convention, Kasich has said he thinks neither of his opponents, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, can do so either. By that time, Kasich’s campaign argues, delegates will only care about electability, and several polls this week showed Kasich as the only remaining GOP candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton (one put both him and Cruz in that category).

The strategy has drawn criticism from Cruz, who has referred to Kasich as a “spoiler” in the race to stop Trump.

“What John Kasich is doing is he’s helping Donald Trump,” Cruz told ABC News’ “Good Morning America” on Wednesday. “He’s being a spoiler. Now maybe he’s auditioning to be Trump’s VP.”

While Kasich trails Cruz by more than 300 delegates and Trump by nearly 600, according to ABC estimates, Kasich argues that he will perform better in upcoming contests in the eastern United States, from Pennsylvania and New Jersey to New York and Connecticut.

While an “outside shot,” Kasich’s argument is rational and could become reality, according to Matthew Dowd, an ABC analyst who was a strategist on George W. Bush's presidential campaigns. Kasich’s electability argument is designed in part to convince potential donors he can last, and trailing Trump in delegates by a couple hundred more than Cruz might not make a difference at a convention, Dowd said.

“It’s all a question of degrees,” Dowd noted. “I think Kasich’s going to have to win somewhere before this is over, and I think if he wins enough places at the end, that creates a much better space for this argument in May, June.”

Delegates will feel obligated to vote for the candidate voters in their state chose on the first ballot of a convention, but they will not have any real obligation on subsequent votes, according to Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington and an adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

In such a scenario, Kasich may have a more difficult time than he has made out so far, she told ABC News.

“Anything can happen, and certainly Kasich looks to be the strongest of them against Hillary Clinton,” Kamarck, a super-delegate for Clinton, said. “But this involves Ted Cruz and Ted Cruz’s delegates coming to the same conclusion and Donald Trump’s delegates coming to the same conclusion.”