The Republican Establishment Goes to Plan C: John Kasich

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John Kasich Holds Campaign Event At USS Yorktown One Day Before SC Primary
Now it's your turn.Photo: Win McNamee/2016 Getty Images

So as the pollsters predicted, Marco Rubio joined fellow Floridian Jeb! Bush on the scrap heap of the 2016 Republican presidential-nominating field, going from everybody’s smart-money candidate with the golden favorability ratings to toast in his home state with amazing speed. For the Trump-fearing, Cruz-hating Republican Establishment, the only survivor is John Kasich of Ohio, either as a potential nominee or as a stalking horse for some player-to-be-named-later, presumably at a “contested convention.”

Kasich’s apparent narrow win over Trump in his home state tonight was facilitated by the pretty heavy consolidation of the anti-Trump vote in his column; Marco Rubio’s public plea for his supporters to vote for Kasich may have made a difference since the Floridian is only pulling about 7 to 8 percent. The Ohioan also obviously benefited from concentrating his efforts in one state, even as Trump competed in four others (plus the Northern Mariana Islands!). And Kasich seems to have gotten a decent crossover vote of Democrats freaked out by Trump. Depending on how things turn out in Missouri and Illinois, where a big majority of delegates are awarded to congressional district winners, Trump might actually be a lot closer to the nomination than before. And while Kasich will be the only mainstream GOP candidate in the race, he will have to fight a three-front battle very immediately against Republicans deciding to make their peace with Trump, Republicans wanting to unite behind Cruz as the only challenger who can conceivably catch the mogul in delegates before Cleveland, and Republicans searching for some “unity candidate” who can come out of the wings and stampede delegates on a second or third ballot. 

So Kasich better not spend too much time enjoying his big, first victory. He needs to get his ducks in a row now.