Ohio Gov. John Kasich may have 530 fewer delegates than Donald Trump, but after he notched his first primary win on Tuesday Kasich talked as if he and not Trump is the front-runner for the GOP nomination.
Even as aides to Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, made noise about denying him a spot at the party’s national convention in Cleveland, Kasich marketed himself as the only real choice left in the field.
“Neither one of those guys can win a general election,” he told reporters after speaking to a crowd of about 700 at a town hall on the campus of Villanova University. “Maybe they’re spoiling it for the Republican Party and the conservative movement.”
If the race goes to a convention floor fight — the first for the GOP since 1948 — the delegates would look for “somebody who can actually be president of the United States, who has a record of accomplishments, not just talk,” Kasich said.
“They’re going to wonder about who can win a general election, and I can tell you those folks can’t,” he said. “They don’t have the right tone or philosophy.”
Kasich scored a decisive victory in Ohio on Tuesday, securing 47 percent of the vote to 36 percent for Trump. But he’ll need to turn that win into future victories if he has any hope of being handed the nomination at the convention.
The estimated delegate count after Tuesday was 673 for Trump, 411 for Cruz and 143 for Kasich.
Pennsylvania, with 71 delegates at stake, is a clear target for the governor, whose campaign literature circulated to voters at the town hall includes a glossy pamphlet proclaiming “John Kasich’s story began in Pennsylvania.”
It highlighted his small-town upbringing in McKees Rocks, Pa., his working-class background and his parent’s advice: “Johnny, wherever you go, leave it better off than you found it.”
He was clearly in a triumphant mood at the town hall. When the DJ turned off the music before his entrance — “Shut up and Dance” by Walk the Moon — Kasich came out and protested teasingly. “I like this song,” he said. “What’s wrong with you? Turn it up!”
Later, he teased a high school student who skipped school to attend his event.
“Where’s the truant officer?” he asked the student.
“My mom was willing to sign me out because she thinks you’re the adult in the room,” the student replied.
Kasich woke to news that Trump would not attend a debate scheduled for Monday in Salt Lake City, Utah. As a result, the Kasich camp says Kasich won’t be there either.
“We had hoped to contrast Governor Kasich’s positive inclusive approach to problem solving with Trump’s campaign of division,” said John Weaver, the governor’s senior advisor.
Weaver said the campaign will be aggressive in Utah, which holds its caucuses on Tuesday. Kasich on Wednesday began airing ads in the state.
Kasich received a bit of good news about the Pennsylvania primary, which is April 26. A supporter of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who withdrew from the presidential race Tuesday night, ended a legal challenge Wednesday over whether Kasich can legally appear on the Pennsylvania ballot.
The challenge dealt with the filing of signatures and prompted a counter-challenge from the Kasich camp.
Rob Nichols, a campaign spokesman, said there was never a doubt about the outcome of the legal dispute.
“We said all along that we were going to be on the ballot in Pennsylvania, (and) we are on the ballot in Pennsylvania,” he said.
He predicted that Kasich, who lived the first 18 years of his life in Pennsylvania, will do well in the state’s April 26 primary.
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