Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right GOP senators unveil bill designating Taliban as terrorist organization MORE campaign spokesman Alex Conant said Friday that Rubio supporters in Ohio seeking to block Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOhio Republican who voted to impeach Trump says he won't seek reelection Youngkin breaks with Trump on whether Democrats will cheat in the Virginia governor's race Trump endorses challenger in Michigan AG race MORE from winning the presidential nomination should vote for John Kasich, who has the best shot against the front-runner in the Buckeye State.
“I’m just stating the obvious: If you’re a Republican primary voter in Ohio and you want to beat Donald Trump, your best chance in Ohio is John Kasich, because John Kasich is the sitting governor and he’s closest to Donald Trump in some of the polls there,” Conant said on CNN.
“The same is true here in Florida, where if you want to beat Donald Trump here in Florida, where there’s 99 delegates at stake, you need to vote for Marco Rubio because he’s the only one with a mathematical shot.”
This surprised CNN anchor John Berman, who asked directly if Conant was instructing Rubio supporters in Ohio to back Kasich.
“Yes,” Conant replied. “John Kasich is the one candidate in Ohio that can beat Donald Trump. So if you’re a Republican voter in Ohio and you don’t want Donald Trump to be the nominee, John Kasich is your best bet.
"If you’re a Republican voter in Florida and you don’t want Donald Trump to be the nominee, Marco Rubio is your best bet. That’s indisputable.”
Florida and Ohio hold winner-take-all contests on March 15.
Rubio and Kasich badly need to win in their home-states to continue on in the race, and also to keep Trump from amassing all 99 delegates in Florida and all 66 in Ohio.
If Trump wins all of the delegates in both states, many believe it will be impossible to stop him from accumulating the 1,237 needed to win the GOP nomination.
Polls show a tight race in Ohio, with Trump holding a 2.5 percentage-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average. However, a Fox News survey released this week found Kasich ahead by 5 points.
The race does not appear as close in Florida. Trump leads in the RealClearPolitics average there by 15 points, although a smattering of surveys released this week found his lead reduced to single-digits.
Conant on Friday said he believes Rubio is racking up a lead in the state based on early-voters and absentee ballots.
However, both Rubio and Kasich are already well-behind in the delegates race.
Trump is in the lead with 459, followed by Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Memo: Like the dress or not, Ocasio-Cortez is driving the conversation again Ocasio-Cortez defends attendance of Met Gala amid GOP uproar MORE at 360, Rubio at 152, and Kasich at 54.
Both Rubio and Kasich appear now to be angling for a seat at a contested convention, in which they block Trump from getting 1,237, and potentially emerge victorious by negotiating at the gathering in Cleveland in July.
Kasich has talked openly about how he believes a contested convention is likely, and Conant’s remarks on Friday indicate the Rubio campaign sees promise through that path as well.