Inside John Kasich's Last-Minute Decision to Drop Out of the 2016 Race

Why Kasich decided to suspend his campaign after staying in this long.

ByABC News
May 4, 2016, 5:07 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Although John Kasich has been mathematically eliminated from clinching the Republican presidential nomination before the convention since March 15, it took him another month and a half -- until today -- to decide to suspend his presidential campaign.

And, according to sources with knowledge of his thinking, even after the chairman of the party declared that Donald Trump will be the presumptive nominee last night, Kasich’s decision was hastily made.

The Ohio governor stood up several dozen members of the political press corps this morning after he cancelled a planned news conference with reporters at a private jet terminal at Dulles International Airport in Virginia, outside Washington. In fact, Kasich, who spent last night in Ohio, never took off from Columbus in the plane that was supposed to carry him east, a senior Kasich campaign official told ABC News.

The news conference was delayed and eventually canceled -- and then came the news that Kasich would be making a statement in Ohio later today. Shortly thereafter, ABC News and other outlets reported that he was expected to suspend his campaign.

Out of Sight

Kasich had been out of the public eye since Saturday, when he held a town hall in San Jose, California. He typically spends Sundays off the trail, at home with his family outside Columbus, but the lack of campaign events on Monday and Tuesday raised questions.

A close friend of Kasich told ABC News today that Kasich made the decision to put the brakes on his bid because the Ohio governor "thought his message would be diminished” if he continued campaigning.

"He feels that it would just be tainted, it would lessen the message that he's trying to get out, if he became the laughing stock of the political pundits,” said Bob Roach, a wealth management adviser in Columbus who has known Kasich for decades and spoke with the governor before and after he decided to suspend his campaign.

“This was not an easy decision,” Roach told ABC News. The two friends had lunch just yesterday, and Roach said Kasich told him at the time that he would stay in.

‘Part of Him Died Today’

But in a matter of hours everything changed.

"He said a part of him died today,” Roach said.

Roach said that Kasich arrived at the decision to end his bid for the GOP nomination this morning, just before he was set to take off to head to the Washington area for a day of events with reporters and fundraisers.

Roach and Kasich are co-founders of a Bible study group that has met in the Columbus area every other Monday for three decades. Roach said that Kasich called all seven members of the group individually to consult with them about his path forward.

"He didn't say he got some message from God,” Roach said. "It was more a matter of talking to as many people as he could.”

Kasich, he said, began to worry that his increasingly long-shot candidacy could soon become talk-show fodder.

"They were going to start making jokes about him, and he was going to be the brunt of jokes the longer he stayed in,” Roach said. Some of the governor’s supporters, he said, hoped that Kasich could preserve his reputation if he exited the race sooner rather than later.

Kasich had been facing increasing calls to drop out not only from national GOP officials and rival campaigns, but also from his political foes at home. An Ohio newspaper lamented the amount of money spent on Kasich’s security detail as he traveled the country on what they portrayed as a quixotic quest, and the Ohio Democratic Party on Monday called on him to "come back to Ohio and do the job you were elected to do.”

A spokesman for Kasich’s campaign, Chris Schrimpf, told ABC News on Monday that Kasich had planned to spend that day working on campaign tasks pertaining to fundraising, policy and media, and that he would be at home in Ohio on Tuesday, too. The governor was scheduled to hold fundraisers in Maryland and Virginia on Wednesday before he canceled his trip to the capital area.

But as late as last night Kasich’s chief spokesman, John Weaver, was still insisting his candidate wasn’t about to quit.

"Governor Kasich will continue to campaign and offer the voters a clear choice for our country,” he said in a statement after rival GOP candidate Ted Cruz announced that he was suspending his own campaign.

Last week at a town hall in Portland, Oregon, Kasich recounted publicly how he and his wife had discussed whether it was worth it for him to continue.

“I thought about should I keep going? Should I carry on? What is this all about? And I thought deeply about it,” Kasich acknowledged.