NEW YORK – With Sen. Marco Rubio asking his supporters in Ohio to vote for Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the GOP presidential primary on Tuesday and with Sen. Ted Cruz spending virtually no time campaigning in the state, the Ohio primary is coming down to a two-person, Donald Trump versus Kasich, contest.
As WND reported Monday, the GOP primary delegate math suggests Trump is likely unstoppable if he wins the winner-take-all primaries in Ohio and Florida next Tuesday.
“If you want to stop Trump in Ohio, Kasich’s the only guy who can beat him there,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told the Associated Press on Friday.
Rubio, it appears, has decided to concentrate all of his effort in Florida, where a victory would give him all of the state’s 99 GOP delegates.
GOP establishment on the run
Ohio’s GOP primary should prove a test of whether the GOP establishment is overestimating its ability to block Trump.
On Friday, conservative Kevin O’Brien, the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s deputy editorial page editor, expressed hope that Kasich will lose to Trump next Tuesday in Ohio, not because he necessarily supports Trump, but because he thinks the “Stop Trump” movement is a dead end for the GOP.
“No one with any love for the country wants to see Donald Trump’s typical 35 percent of the vote give him 100 percent of Ohio’s convention delegates,” O’Brien wrote.
“But there could be an upside: Maybe, just maybe, if he lost his home state to Trump, Kasich would do the decent thing for his party and his country –and go away,” he continued. “Or, rather, stay home in Columbus and stop chasing the elusive dream of … what?”
O’Brien said a convention “seething with delegates pledged to Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will not submit docilely to the wishes of party leaders.”
“Depending on what happens Tuesday and thereafter, this year’s Republican Convention may be contested, but there’s no way it will be brokered when at least half of the delegates despise the would-be brokers.”
Kasich not gaining on Trump
On Thursday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported in a lead front-page headline that Kasich was not gaining on Trump in Ohio, as reflected in the most recent Quinnipiac University poll.
In a poll of likely Ohio Republican primary voters, Trump is leading Kasich 38 percent to 32 percent, compared to 31 percent to 26 percent in the Quinnipiac University poll released Feb. 23.
The most recent Quinnipiac poll shows Rubio’s support dropping from 13 percent to 9 percent and Cruz falling from 21 percent to 16 percent. The Plain Dealer commented that Trump and Kasich appear to be splitting the voters dropping from Rubio and Cruz.
The new poll also omitted retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who had polled at 5 percent in February before he suspended his campaign.
With Carson endorsing Trump on Friday, Trump stands to gain ground on Kasich, presuming that some Carson supporters who switched to Kasich might be persuaded by Carson’s endorsement to switch to Trump.
Trump draws Democratic voters in Ohio
On Friday, Reuters reported that Trump is likely to pick up votes in the Ohio primary from blue-collar Democrats.
In Ohio, voters registered as independent can show up at a primary polling station and ask for either the Republican or the Democratic primary ballot, in contrast to a “closed” primary system in which voters are restricted to the party for which they are registered.
On Friday, the Columbus Dispatch reported Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe, a self-described die-hard Kasich supporter who campaigned for him in New Hampshire, is taking calls nearly every day from Democrats wanting to vote in the Republican primary.
“And nine times out of 10, or 19 out of 20, you get the sense they are doing so because they want to vote for Trump,” Munroe told the Dispatch. “It’s been fascinating to watch.”
“He’s getting Democrats to cross over,” Munroe said of Trump, “but he’s also getting a large number of unaffiliated voters – people who don’t participate in primaries.”
The Columbus paper noted Mahoning County, a northeastern Ohio county that includes Youngstown, 8,639 people have asked for absentee ballots.
Of those, 759 were Democrats asking for the Republican ballot and 1,053 were unaffiliated voters asking for the GOP ballot.
“We could have 4- or 5- or 6,000 new Republicans in Mahoning County,” Munroe said. “Which would be a very significant number.”