March 20, 2016
John Kasich is spending time and resources in Utah. On the surface this seems absurd. He’s not going to win Utah under any circumstances.
Furthermore, if he fails to prevent Ted Cruz from clearing 50%, he’ll have zero delegates to show for his efforts. Given his limited resources compared to his competitors and the importance of later contests further north and further east, why would he do such a thing?
Because he has to win Pennsylvania on April 26. It’s a must-win the way Ohio was. If he can’t win before then, the task gets harder. So, he also needs Wisconsin on 4/5.
But he’s trailing there. Both Trump and Cruz are better positioned. Kasich will finish third in Arizona. That doesn’t help him with momentum.
Enter Utah. A new survey from Y2 Analytics has Kasich ahead of Trump. Cruz leads with 53%, Kasich is at 29%, Trump only 11%.
It’s a bit of an outlier. Though Trump has struggled (relative to his standing elsewhere) in Utah, he’ll probably wind up doing a bit better than 11%.
Still, polling in GOP contests has proven consistently accurate so far, particularly in regards to Trump. It’s quite possible The Donald is held to 20% or so, with Kasich finishing ahead of him.
That would mean he’s recently bested Trump in DC, Ohio, and Utah. Not exactly enough to make him a front runner, but useful in combatting Cruz as the anti-Trump.
Ted will finish ahead of Trump in Utah, but is at definite risk of trailing him in Arizona, after losing to Trump in all 5 states on March 15.
Trump has a massive lead in New York, which votes April 19. The April 26 states set up better for Kasich than Cruz, as long as the governor seems even partially viable.
While many Republicans are more interested in stopping Trump than which candidate does it, we have no idea if Kasich thinks Cruz is preferable to Trump. At the moment he’s worrying about what’s good for John Kasich.
That involves slowing Trump and stopping Cruz. There’s no benefit to him in keeping The Donald short of 1237 if Cruz is the beneficiary.
He doesn’t care if there’s a clear alternative right now. Actually, he’d prefer there isn’t one until he’s won enough contests for that person to be him.
Kasich is not the Great Establishment Savior. He’s not a spoiler. He’s a 63-year-old, ex-congressman, in his second term as popular governor of a big state, who perceives himself as the best qualified candidate in the race.
He also believes 2016 is his best chance to become president, a job he first pursued in the 2000 cycle. Kasich doesn’t have that many cards to play, but he’s not going out still holding them.
While he’s still a long shot, he’s also only a Wisconsin victory combined with a Trump win in Arizona, from effectively eliminating Cruz as the lead alternative.
If Utah is the only Cruz win after March 8, when voters go to the polls on April 26, he’s getting buried. Should that happen, Kasich pushing for 2nd in Utah may well have made the difference.