Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. Ted Cruz has picked up his ball and gone home. Yet John Kasich says he’ll stay in the presidential race.
It’s a somewhat quixotic effort, and one that seems unlikely to endure for very long. Kasich’s path to the nomination has long been a very narrow one. He has won just a single state — his home state of Ohio. His other big success came three months ago, when he took second place in the New Hampshire primary. Though he is now one of only two Republicans left in the race, he remains in fourth place in the delegate count, behind Trump, Cruz, and Marco Rubio, who ended his campaign six weeks ago.
“Our party is facing a clear choice between positive solutions that can win in November and a darker path that will solve nothing and lead to Hillary Clinton in the White House, a Democrat Senate and a liberal Supreme Court. As long as it remains possible, Governor Kasich will fight for the higher path,” Kasich’s chief strategist John Weaver said in a statement Tuesday evening.
But it’s not clear how long it will remain possible.
Even Kasich’s allies acknowledge that the path is a narrow one. At the Republican National Committee meeting in Florida last month, Matt Borges, the Ohio GOP chairman and a staunch Kasich backer, described their pitch to RNC members as “esoteric” because it depended on the premise that the race would not only go to a contested convention, but that it would take three or four ballots to decide the nominee. If Trump didn’t lock it up on the first, and Cruz didn’t lock it up on the second, Kasich’s moment would come. With Cruz out and Trump on a glide path to 1237 delegates, that moment looks more and more remote.
But there’s another problem: money. Kasich’s campaign ended March with only $1.2 million cash on hand. His Super PAC, New Day for America, ended March with about the same sum in the bank. Resources have been a problem for Kasich all along — even as the field dwindled, money never coalesced behind him. To have even a chance at stopping Trump, with the newfound momentum that comes with a string of wins and the title of “presumptive nominee,” Kasich would need a lot of money. And it seems unlikely he’s going to get it.
In early March, just before the Ohio and Florida primaries, Stan Hubbard, a Minnesota-based major Republican donor who gave to several of the candidates, including Kasich, told National Review that he’d given to the anti-Trump efforts. “The things we see Donald Trump do are outrageous. You just wonder,” he said at the time. He added of a possible contested convention: “I think it would be a blessing for Republicans to have a big fight and pick a new, different candidate.”
But speaking to National Review Tuesday evening after the Indiana results came in, Hubbard sounded resigned to a Trump nomination.
“If [Trump] becomes the nominee, our family will do all we can to help him. But not until he becomes the nominee,” Hubbard said. “Until you have the number of delegates you’re not the nominee. And I’m sure the predictions will be accurate, but who knows.”
The prospect of backing Trump evidently doesn’t thrill him, but Hubbard said he would not spend any more money to try to change the outcome.
“I’m just waiting to see what happens. No more money goes out to any presidential candidate until they pick a nominee,” he said.
Scott Keller, a Utah-based donor who gave money and held fundraisers for several candidates, including Kasich, but not Trump, was more sanguine about Trump, and said it was time to unite behind him.
“I like Gov. Kasich. I’ve hosted him out here in Utah. He’s certainly qualified to be president. But it looks like Trump’s the man,” Keller said.
“I guess I’m with [RNC] Chairman Reince Priebus: It’s time to rally about Trump, like him or not,” he said. In a contest with Hillary Clinton, he said, the choice wasn’t difficult.
It’s a small sample, to be sure. But it’s reflective of the issues Kasich faces in trying to sustain a campaign that has gone from long shot to almost no shot. Priebus on Tuesday evening dubbed Trump the “presumptive nominee” in a tweet. Democrats — convinced Trump will hurt Republicans down ballot — shouted that phrase from the rooftops. A statement from Our Principle’s PAC, the most vocal anti-Trump group, vowing to keep fighting Trump made no mention of Kasich, the only remaining alternative in the Republican primary. Kasich may still be contesting the primary, but much of the Republican party, and the political universe, has already moved on to the general election.