Stoddard: What's up with Kasich?

Stoddard: What's up with Kasich?
© Greg Nash

Before he entered into his historic arrangement with Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzHospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE to block Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE from the GOP presidential nomination, Republicans were starting to wonder what John Kasich was up to. 

Now, after hearing the Ohio governor’s explanation of that new strategy, even more Republicans are wondering what he’s up to.

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By agreeing to assist Cruz, Kasich — who has only won his home state — is clearly hoping to force his way into contention in a convention fight. According to the plan, he is suspending campaigning in Indiana to give Cruz a better shot at beating Trump there on May 3, which Cruz will then do for Kasich in Oregon and New Mexico later in the primary schedule.

It turns out the Kasich camp wanted a deal with the Texas senator for a while. But it sure doesn’t sound that way: Kasich said on Monday that voters “ought to vote for me” in Indiana despite the deal. When pushed for clarity by “Today” show anchors Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer, the White House hopeful accused them of being “confused and upset” and “getting too hung up on process.”

Of course Cruz has stayed on message, and with his nine primary victories, the promised support of delegates from Wyoming and Colorado, who are unbound at the Republican National Convention, and his 562 delegates, according to The Associated Press, he has more to gain from the accord than Kasich. 

Thus far the Texan has proven the far superior campaigner. Not only is Kasich’s ground effort to win over delegates woefully behind Cruz’s, he does not appear in the voter pamphlet in Oregon, one of the two states Cruz has now agreed to cede to him. Voters there, according to the office of the secretary of State, have received pamphlets that feature photographs and bios of both Trump and Cruz, while Kasich’s name is merely listed among eligible candidates and could be overlooked entirely.

But Kasich doesn’t seem worried. He seems to think the party could turn to him at an open convention in July and — poof — he would beat two men who have won over and over again in the primaries and become the GOP nominee. No path, no math, no problem — “I’m not dropping out, I’m dropping in!” the governor recently said. 

And he wonders why everyone is so fixated on this losing concept, telling voters in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa., on Monday: “The press is hyperventilating, ‘Why can’t you win these primaries?’ ”

Ironically, Kasich has it all — at least all that was supposed to be required to win this year. He is a popular two-term governor in the second most important battleground state in the Electoral College. He has broader experience — as an executive, as a legislator and in business — than any one who ran for president this year. Most significantly, he has consistently polled best against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRepublican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema Countering the ongoing Republican delusion MORE, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and crushes her in general election match-ups. 

But that didn’t matter this cycle. As Kasich himself said last week: “I am a fundamental believer in ideas. And frankly my Republican Party doesn’t like ideas.”

Indeed, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), a Trump booster, told National Journal last year that Kasich is “one of the most energetic and innovative idea-oriented Republicans of his generation.” And in more irony, Gingrich then questioned the often prickly Kasich’s temperament for the job, saying, “People instinctively want a president to have a certain kind of stability. They recognize that presidents can do a lot of damage,” adding that should Kasich actually enter the 2016 race, he would have to “learn to have serenity in the midst of the chaos.”

While he seeks to topple the chaos candidate in Cleveland, one thing no one is questioning now is Kasich’s serenity. He said of the new alliance, “It’s not a big deal. But it’s fun though. I’m having the time of my life.”

So that’s what Kasich is up to:  having the time of his life.

 

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.