John Kasich needed to drop out long before last night’s contests in Arizona and Utah.
Kasich won neither of them. In fact, he has won just one of the over 20 contests thus far, and that was last week, in his home state of Ohio. Though he defeated frontrunner Donald Trump there, Kasich did not even clear 50 percent.
To add insult to injury, Kasich actually came in fourth in last night’s Arizona primary, behind “Other”:
- Trump – 47.1 percent, 249,707 votes
- Cruz – 24.9 percent, 131,841 votes
- Other – 18 percent, 95,624 votes
- Kasich – 10 percent, 52,997 votes
The “Other” candidate was Marco Rubio, who dropped out last week.
While Kasich finished second in the Utah Caucuses, it was a distant second:
- Cruz – 69.2 percent, 118,904 votes
- Kasich – 16.9 percent, 29,015 votes
- Trump – 14 percent, 23,984 votes
Kasich Far Behind in Delegates
Even after his Ohio victory, Kasich is fourth in delegates:
- Trump – 739
- Cruz – 465
- Rubio – 166
- Kasich – 143
Prior to the Ohio primary on March 15, Kasich had no chance at getting the needed 1,237 delegates to become the Republican nominee.
How Kasich’s Refusal to Exit Hurt Other Candidates
Not only does Kasich have zero chance, but his staying in the race has badly hurt other candidates while helping Trump.
Frankly, Kasich should have followed the example of Jeb Bush. On February 20, Kasich finished fifth in the South Carolina primary, while Bush finished fourth. Bush dropped out, not seeing a path forward, but Kasich stayed in, to the detriment of Rubio and Cruz.
In all but one of the contests below (the exception being Mississippi), the vote Kasich received was greater than the margin between Trump and the second place finisher:
March 1, “Super Tuesday”
- Trump defeated Rubio in Virginia, 40.2 percent – 36.8 percent. Kasich finished fourth with 9.4 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in Arkansas, 32.8 percent – 30.5 percent. Kasich finished fifth with 3.7 percent.
March 5 Primaries
- Trump defeated Cruz in Kentucky, 35.9 percent -31.6 percent. Kasich finished fourth with 14.4 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in Louisiana, 41.4 percent – 37.8 percent. Kasich finished fourth with 6.8 percent.
March 8 Primaries
- Trump defeated Cruz in Mississippi, 47.3 percent – 36.3 percent. Kasich finished third with 8.8 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in Michigan, 36.5 percent – 24.9 percent. Kasich finished third with 24.3 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in Hawaii, 42.4 percent- 32.7 percent. Kasich finished fourth with 10.6 percent.
March 15 Primaries
- Trump defeated Cruz in Illinois, 38.3 percent – 30.8 percent. Kasich finished third with 19.7 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in Missouri, 40.9 percent – 40.7 percent. Kasich finished third with 9.9 percent.
- Trump defeated Cruz in North Carolina, 40.2 percent -36.8 percent. Kasich finished third with 12.7 percent.
Granted, not all of Kasich’s voters would have necessarily gone to Cruz (or Rubio in Virginia). Even still, Kasich’s continued presence in these races very likely cost Cruz eight victories (with a closer finish in Mississippi), and Rubio one victory, over Trump.
Second Place Isn’t Good Enough
Yes, the above chart does not directly take the delegate math into account. However, winning primaries leads to more delegates in most states (since many states like Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan give more delegates to the winner).
Perhaps more importantly, winning also leads to greater momentum for the victorious candidate, and more calls for the runners-up to drop out, even in close contests.
Take Virginia, for instance. Trump led Rubio by double digits in four of the five polls taken prior to that primary. But Rubio closed strong there, finishing just 2.8 percent behind Trump, and garnering 16 delegates to Trump’s 17.
Even while Rubio did well there, he did not win. At that point, he began to see a significant decline in support. It would have been a different scenario if Kasich had not been present in that race–let alone in the races above that affected Cruz’ chances.
Why Does Kasich Remain?
Speculation has mounted as to why Kasich refuses to suspend his campaign. Ted Cruz recently suggested, “Maybe he’s auditioning to be Donald Trump’s vice president.”
Kasich denied this is a recent video (see below): “There is zero chance that I one be vice president for either of them. Below zero, actually.”
When asked if he was a spoiler, Kasich replied negatively: “Am I a spoiler? Of course I’m not a spoiler.”
The only plausible explanation, then, seems to be that John Kasich believes that he could persuade delegates to back him in the event that Trump does not reach the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination going into the convention.
But is that a plausible scenario? Even if Trump doesn’t reach 1,237 before the July GOP convention, is it possible that the delegates would turn to Kasich, who may not even reach 200 by the time all of the primaries are over? Hardly.
At this point, John Kasich will probably stay in the race until he runs out of money. And until he does, he will continue to do what he has done this entire primary season: hurt candidates not named Donald Trump.
[Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images]