The premise that John Kasich is best positioned to defeat Hillary Clinton in the fall rests on shaky pillars. Head-to-head polling match-ups eight months out are dubious, especially when Kasich is relatively unknown. Besides, whoever defeats Donald Trump for the Republican nomination will have to, at some point, demonstrate the courage to tangle with him – however unpleasant those encounters may be. It’s very late, and John Kasich remains AWOL in that struggle.
Ted Cruz has won eight primaries and caucuses. Kasich has won only his home state. Kasich’s campaign urges that the map, moving into blue and purple states in the last phase, favors the moderate/conservative Midwest governor. But a quick review of the swing states decided so far, especially in the Midwest, don’t offer much reassurance that voters agree. Kasich finished third in Michigan, fifth in Minnesota, fourth in Florida, third in Missouri, fourth in Virginia, third in Illinois, and eighth in Iowa. Despite his Ohio win, Kasich has amassed fewer delegates than Marco Rubio even today, and remains in the race only because, unlike 15 other competitors, he lacked the good grace to bow to the voters’ verdicts.
Recent polls show some Kasich strength in Pennsylvania, and any sign of Trump weakness is welcome. But in Wisconsin, Cruz is polling even better. Besides, the Kasich campaign has been disorganized and unfocused. It initially failed to gain sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot in Pennsylvania and has missed the threshold for a full slate of delegates in Maryland. When combined with the fact that Kasich has taken other steps beneficial to the Trump campaign – such as cancelling the final debate after Trump withdrew, and spending close to three quarters of a million dollars challenging Cruz in Utah (Utah!), where Cruz enjoyed a big lead and the candidate who received more than 50 percent would win all the delegates, Kasich’s true motives remain open to question.
Unlike Kasich, or Trump for that matter, Cruz has run a careful ground operation mopping up delegates with military precision. See his recent coup in Louisiana. Cruz has challenges as a general election candidate to be sure, but if he can secure the title of dragon slayer in the name of constitutionalism, rule of law and political decency, the general electorate may view him with new respect.
Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a columnist with Creators Syndicate.