Spoiler alert: Why won’t sore winner John Kasich quit the race?

Good day Austin:

The word coming from the Ted Cruz campaign is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

The word coming from Sean Hannity on Fox last night is that John Kasich is a spoiler.

Selfish. Establishment tool. Deluded.

OK.

First, watch Glenn Beck, who loves Cruz and hates Trump, and see why he is so much better than Sean Hannity.

Second, on a personal note, I am worried about Sean Hannity.

It’s not the way his hair sits on his head, which remains, as it has always been, unsettling.

It’s that he loves Donald Trump but he also loves Ted Cruz. He wants them both to be president, but, of course that can’t happen. Never mind that Cruz now fashions himself as the only person who can save the Republican Party and the nation from the disaster of Donald Trump. Never mind that the reason Cruz feels Kasich is obliged to get out of the race is so he can have the one-on-one with Trump in order to take the New York huckster out.

 

 

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What Hannity doesn’t like is not that Kasich is messing up Cruz’s chances of bringing down Trump but that Kasich’s candidacy invites thoughts, the mere possibility, that the Republican Party could nominate someone other than Trump or Cruz. And, in Hannity’s view, and in the view of the Cruz campaign, it is illegitimate for a candidate to persist who does not have a mathematical possibility of clinching the nomination before the Cleveland convention, where, in Hannity’s view, anything that occurs that does not simply hand the nomination to whoever has the most delegates coming in, no matter how shy of the 1,237 delegate that candidate might be, would be a terrible  injustice, or as Trump put it yesterday, a reason to riot in the streets of Cleveland, not that he would condone that.

That construct works for Hannity because he’s fine if Trump is the nominee.

But for someone who loves Cruz but doesn’t also love Trump, that is a dangerous line of reasoning, because if Kasich’s chance of securing the delegates needed to win the nomination before Cleveland are none, Cruz’s chances are slim – very, very slim and within spitting distance of none.

If Ted Cruz is going to be nominated in Cleveland, it is much more likely to happen on a second or third ballot than on the first ballot. And, right now, there is a lot more chance that Cruz would be Trump’s running mate than that he would win the top spot.

Would Trump pick Lyin’ Ted as his running mate?

Sure. Why not? It appears, he has already promised Dr. Ben pathological-like-a-child-molester Carson some role in his administration in exchange for his endorsement.

Would Cruz go for it?

Well, of course Cruz would prefer an appointment to the Supreme Court by President Trump that would enable the 45-year-old brilliant legal mind to shape American society well into the End Times. But, if Trump doesn’t go for that, vice president in a Trump administration could be a really plum job –  even more important than being vice president in the George W. Bush administration. And how sweet would it be for Cruz to return to Washington in 2017 as President of the Senate.

And, for what it’s worth, a Trump-Cruz ticket would be Sean Hannity’s dream come true.

So feh on Kasich, the spoiler whose only real claim to the nomination is that he might actually prove electable in the fall.

What a loser.

From Matt Bai at Yahoo! Politics caught up with Kasich yesterday in Pennsylvania.

“I have a unique opportunity, because we’re now gaining momentum,” Kasich told me, shrugging off the obstacles. “What would you rather have, momentum in the first quarter or momentum in the fourth? Cruz didn’t win anything last night. I did.

“And you know what? People across the country are celebrating that victory in Ohio. Because they believe it sends a message that somebody who has a record, somebody who can bring us together — that there’s hope for that yet.

“I don’t see that anybody is going to have enough delegates,” Kasich told me. “And then you have a convention. I mean, why are people hyperventilating about that?”

Kasich’s plan, in other words, is to keep Trump from amassing the 1,237 delegates he needs, and then to effectively declare a reset at the convention. His campaign added a team of serious party insiders this week — among them the superlobbyist Vin Weber and the longtime strategist Charlie Black — to begin preparing for a delegate war.

But as Kasich well knows, the “hyperventilation” in some circles comes from imagining what will happen if Republican operatives try to overturn the will of their own voters. And this is why Kasich needs to do more than simply keep Trump under the magic number; he also needs to win a bunch of states that aren’t his own between now and early June.

In the end, an establishment-led challenge will be viable — or at least something less than suicidal — only if the leaders of various delegations can plausibly make the case that Kasich was the party’s strongest candidate by the time the primaries ended.

If nothing else, there’s little question that he’s now the most electable of the bunch. I asked him if it felt odd, despite his sharply conservative record and evangelical fervor, to have become the Republican Democrats like best.

“I have always been able to attract the independent and conservative Democrats,” Kasich told me as the car came to a stop. “When their party’s turned hard left and they feel left behind, we’ve always had an ability to get those votes.”

Aside from electability, Kasich’s calling card is his governing experience, in Washington and Ohio, which dwarfs that of either Cruz or Trump. But, at least so far this year, that preparation is tallied on the negative side of the ledger.

Also, unlike Cruz, Kasich was never an apologist for Trump.

So, what would get Kasich out of the race?

Money, or lack thereof. That’s the surest path, accompanied by doing a lot of losing.

Or, a devastating nickname.

So far, Trump has a not bestowed one on Kasich that perfectly encapsulates his  essential weakness, his fatal flaw.

But, I’m sure his time will come.

In the meantime, Kasich needs to finish ahead of Cruz in places like Wisconsin and New York and Pennsylvania  and Connecticut, to demonstrate that it is not he who is spoiling things.

Cruz wasn’t out campaigning yesterday, but his campaign did release an illuminating statement “regarding President Obama’s decision to nominate Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Merrick Garland is exactly the type of Supreme Court nominee you get when you make deals in Washington D.C. A so-called ‘moderate’ Democrat nominee is precisely the kind of deal that Donald Trump has told us he would make – someone who would rule along with other liberals on the bench like Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor. Make no mistake, if Garland were confirmed, he would side predictably with President Obama on critical issues such as undermining the Second Amendment, legalizing partial-birth abortion, and propping up overreaching bureaucratic agencies like the EPA and the IRS. We cannot afford to lose the Supreme Court for generations to come by nominating or confirming someone that a dealmaker like Donald Trump would support. Washington dealmakers cannot be trusted with such crucial lifetime appointments. 

I proudly stand with my Republican colleagues in our shared belief – our advice and consent – that we should not vote on any nominee until the next president is sworn into office. The People will decide. I commend Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley for holding the line and ensuring that We the People get to exercise our authority to decide the direction of the Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights.

I must admit that my paramount fear about a Trump presidency is not that he would recklessly name a widely-respected centrist jurist to the Supreme Court. But it cuts to the core of Cruz’s critique of Trump, which is first and foremost that the intemperate Trump is too moderate.

Meanwhile, according to this week’s Gallup Insiders’ Briefing, through all the tumult since Trump announced last June, his high standing with Republican voters is undisturbed, but, among the broader public, he is even more unpopular than Hillary Clinton.

Some excerpts:

Trump is not well-liked by Americans, and has become less so over time. He is less well-liked than any other candidate, Republican or Democrat.
 
His national image started out as 32% favorable/56% unfavorable in July.  As his familiarity has inched up, all of this increased recognition has gone to the negative side of the ledger.  From July to present, his favorable is down by 3 points, his unfavorable up by 8 points. He is now at a -35 net favorable (29%/64%).
 
Trump was best liked in late August and early September, when his favorable was slightly above average at 38%. Trump’s most negative image came for the week ending March 5, with 28% favorable, roughly where he is today. On average since July, 33% of Americans have held a favorable opinion of Trump while 58% have been unfavorable. 
 
In contrast to what national adults think about Trump, rank and file Republicans generally like him.  
 
Trump’s image has averaged 57% favorable/36% unfavorable among Republicans since July. After Trump’s image dipped earlier this month, it has improved and is now remarkably close to his overall average, with 59% of Republicans holding a favorable view of him and 36% an unfavorable view.  Republicans’ net favorable views of Trump have ranged from a low of +5 in late February/early March to as high as +33 in September.
 
  Among the “Non-Trump” Candidates, Kasich Now Best Liked
 
Of the two Republican candidates who remain standing in Trump’s considerable shadow, John Kasich now enjoys the highest net favorable rating among Republicans and Republican leaners nationwide. His +33 net favorable rating as of Tuesday compares with +17 for Ted Cruz (and +23 for Trump). Before suspending his campaign Tuesday night, Marco Rubio had plunged to an all-time low of zero in net favorability with Republicans nationally. Kasich has also demonstrated impressive momentum, managing a fairly steady three month climb from his all-time low of +2 in late December. Kasich has also become better known, with his familiarity among Republicans climbing about 20 percentage points.
 
Over the same period Cruz’s favorability rating nosedived, similar to Rubio’s. However, before the March 15 primaries Cruz managed a slight recovery from his recent nadir.  Where Kasich and Cruz go from here remains to be seen, but, combined with the results of the March 15 elections, their images suggest that they may have enough GOP goodwill to continue in the hopes of achieving something at a possible brokered convention.
 
I spoke yesterday with Frank Newport, Gallup editor-in-chief, who talked about their findings.
Right now, among Republicans, Trump has a better image than Cruz, but by just a few points. Both candidates have liabilities with Republicans, more than third of Republicans are unfavorable about both.
Neither one of them has an image advantage at the moment.

Kasich’s a little better liked than either of them, but even a lot of Republicans don’t know a lot about Kasich.  About 30 percent of Republicans really don’t know who  he is.

This is the first time in our data (for the favorable/unfavorable question, beginning in 1992)  we’ve had two candidates, possible front-runners, who among the general population have over 50 percent unfavorable ratings – that would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – and of those two, Trump is more unpopular than Hillary.

He clearly has major image problems with the electorate as whole. This is unusual to have a candidate at this stage who is this deeply disliked.

Hillary Clinton – you know we’ve been tracking her for 25 years, she is very labile. When she’s not running for president, she is in the favorable, plus side. She has the potential to spring back.

But for now, Newport said of the prospect of a Clinton-Trump race, “it raises the specter – kind of a James Bond term – of a third-party candidate.”

 

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