This truly is a year when the rules don’t apply. If they did, John Kasich would be back in Columbus trying to figure out whether he sells his soul to Donald Trump or endorses Ted Cruz.
Instead, the Ohio governor is still out on the trail running a delusional vanity project masquerading as a presidential campaign. There is no appetite for his pragmatic, “can’t we all get along” campaign among Republican primary voters, who have made that abundantly clear.
Kasich must hold the record for the most finishes of 4 percent or below of any candidate who has persisted in saying that he expects to be his party’s nominee. He is the Harold Stassen of primary-season futility. Kasich has limped in at roughly 4 percent or lower in Alaska (4.07 percent), Alabama (4.43 percent), Arkansas (3.71 percent), Iowa (1.86 percent), Nevada (3.6 percent), Oklahoma (3.59 percent) and Texas (4.25 percent).
The contests that he has done best in, besides his home state, are Vermont, where he finished a close second to Trump and got eight delegates, and the District of Columbia, where he finished a close second behind Marco Rubio and got nine delegates. This is not exactly an electoral juggernaut.
Kasich’s performance on Western Tuesday would have been enough to embarrass any lesser mortal out of the race. In Arizona, he finished in fourth place in a three-man race, which sounds like a setup for a bad joke. Marco Rubio had won enough of the early vote that the anemic Kasich couldn’t catch him.
In Utah, Kasich bizarrely sought to keep Ted Cruz beneath 50 percent, the threshold for winning all of the state’s delegates. Instead, he succeeded only in holding Cruz below 70 percent, while he finished second — by 52 points.
Kasich has run as a manic, slightly more entertaining version of Jon Huntsman, limiting his appeal to a slice of the party’s moderates. Kasich is a genuine man of faith, but he is prone to self-righteousness and psychobabble of the sort that you’d expect to hear from an overtalkative yoga instructor, including his advocacy of more hugging.
For all his foggy rhetoric of uplift, Kasich is AWOL on Trump. Last week, he pronounced himself “very concerned” about the Trump’s remarks about women, but didn’t want to say anything further. There’s nothing worse than a self-professed healer who won’t call out the man who represents everything he should abjure in our politics.
Kasich might as well be a de facto member of the Trump team. Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics crunched the numbers and found that with Kasich in the race, Trump gets to 1,237 delegates, and without Kasich in the race, Trump falls short. Since Kasich’s only path is a contested convention, this makes his campaign, on top of everything else, a massive self-contradiction.
Kasich believes that an open convention would turn to him, which is certainly possible — the same way a meteor strike at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland is possible.
The delegate game at a convention would be, in part, an organizational contest, and Kasich’s organization is all but nonexistent. He’d make an electability case based on his good head-to-head poll numbers against Hillary Clinton, although they are elevated because no one has bothered to attack him.
This is all academic unless Trump is slowed. The next chance to do it is in Wisconsin, where Kasich at the very least will make it more difficult for Cruz to beat Trump, and perhaps tip the state to the mogul.
There is no excuse for Kasich, a politico for decades, not realizing this. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that he is still in the race only because he is less realistic and, sadly, less honorable than the candidates who have dropped out before him.
John, spare us your sanctimony and your unifying patter. Take a cold-eyed look at reality, and do what’s best for your party and your cause. No hugs necessary.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.