Conservatives yelling for Ohio governor John Kasich to withdraw from the presidential race right now are misguided. The way for Ted Cruz to win the nomination is to keep Donald Trump’s delegate count down. Kasich’s presence in the New York primary in two weeks will likely accomplish that, to a significant degree.
In New York, if a single candidate wins 50 percent of the vote statewide, he is awarded all 14 at-large delegate spots. Donald Trump is heavily favored in the state. In a two-man race, all 14 delegates likely would go to him. But if the vote is split three ways and Trump is held below 50 percent, than Trump would win only a proportional share of those 14 — likely meaning about seven, although other complicated wrinkles could earn him as many as 10. A 7–7 or 8–6 pro- and anti-Trump split obviously would help Trump’s closest pursuer, Cruz, compared to a 14–0 wipe-out.
Meanwhile, another 81 delegates will be awarded by a complicated district-by-district formula for each of the 27 congressional constituencies. Again, if a candidate wins 50 percent of the vote in any district, he wins all three delegates there — but in any district in which nobody earns 50 percent of the vote, the usual allocation will be 2–1. Even if Trump wins every single district (he won’t), if Kasich’s presence holds him to a plurality instead of a majority in each, that would be the difference between a Trump 81–0 sweep or a Trump-Cruz 54-27 split.
That difference isn’t a mere rounding error; it could be the difference in the entire battle for a convention majority, and thus the nomination.
What Kasich does after New York might be another story. If he finishes in a weak third there, he ought to suspend his campaign the very next day. But until then, he ought to keep fighting.