John Kasich pulled off a crucial victory in Ohio, throwing a road block in front of front-runner Donald Trump and giving the Ohio governor a chance to continue in the race for the Republican nomination.
But Ohio also gave a win to former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who now appears to be on an unstoppable path to represent Democrats in November. Clinton on Tuesday won victories over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in Ohio, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina, according to early unofficial results.
Despite losing to Kasich in Ohio, Trump too had a good night. Not only did he win Florida and secure its 99 winner-take-all delegates, he won at least two other states and knocked U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio from the race.
After getting crushed in his home state, Rubio announced Tuesday night that he is suspending his campaign. “After tonight it is clear that while we are on the right side, this year we will not be on the winning side,” Rubio told his supporters.
Trump also won Illinois and North Carolina and captured nine delegates from the Northern Marianas.
The race in Missouri was too close to call on both sides.
Kasich’s Ohio win doubles his delegate count, allowing him to continue his pursuit for the GOP nomination. It also may inoculate him from immediate calls to drop out of the race.
“We are going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination,” Kasich told about 1,000 supporters and a bank of worldwide television cameras at Baldwin Wallace University in Berea. He added: “I’m getting ready to rent a covered wagon and have the wind blow us to the Rocky Mountains and over the mountains to California. Here’s what I want you to know. You’ve got one more trip around Ohio this coming fall where we will beat Hillary Clinton and I will become the president of the United States.”
In her speech following her Florida win, Clinton ignored her Democratic opponent and set her scope plainly on Trump, saying Americans have had enough of his “bluster and bigotry.”
“If we lift each other up instead of tearing each other down, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together,” she said.
Clinton’s performance was a bounce-back after losing to Sanders in Michigan last week.
“Secretary Clinton showed that Michigan was just a bad night, and her momentum looks good,” said Stephanie Martin, communications assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The math for Sanders going forward is very discouraging. I expect the calls for him to begin consolidating his supporters behind Clinton to grow. I also expect him to continue on for awhile. After all, he’s only been a Democrat since he announced for president. He doesn’t have a lot to lose.”
Cruz, who made one campaign stop in Ohio in the week leading up to Tuesday, finished third in the Buckeye state with about 14 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results. Still, Cruz had the second-most delegates heading into Tuesday and that won’t change, even after Kasich’s 66 winner-take-all delegates from Ohio.
Kasich had a decided home-court advantage in Ohio, the only state he has captured. Not only did he win nine congressional elections in Ohio and two statewide elections as governor, he also had the backing of the Ohio Republican Party, solid job approval numbers, newspaper endorsements throughout the state and local foot soldiers to get out the vote.
The Ohio GOP and New Day for America, the independent PAC supporting Kasich, also reached out to absentee voters by mail and phone to convince them to cast their ballot for Kasich. And though it is unclear how much it helped, Rubio last week asked his supporters to support Kasich and not him. Rubio had just 2 percent of the Ohio vote on Tuesday.
All that proved to be enough to turn back Trump’s boisterous rallies, his “Make America Great Again” promises and his blistering attacks on Kasich as a “baby” and an “absentee governor.”
“I have to thank the great people of the state of Ohio. I love ya,” Kasich said on Tuesday.
Rubio’s exit, while not unexpected, is a huge development in a race many believed he would win. But he stumbled badly in one debate, repeating the same line so many times he was called out by New Jersey Gov. and then-presidential-candidate Chris Christie. The Florida senator also was criticized for some of his attacks on Trump, including criticizing the size of his hands.
To capture the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July, the winning candidate must have 1,237 delegates. Trump picked up steam Tuesday but his failure in Ohio — a critical bellwether state — raises questions about his viability in the general election that could hobble him in future Republican primaries.
Team Kasich said in a press release: “After tonight, almost 1,000 delegates will still be available, and the electoral map shifts significantly in our favor, with the delegate-rich states fitting Gov. Kasich’s profile.”
But political experts aren’t nearly as confident.
““I don’t think he has much of a presence in other states yet, so it will be a challenge for his campaign to raise money and establish a viable campaign elsewhere,” said Ohio State University political scientist Paul Beck. “The calendar is quiet for the next three weeks with only Arizona, Utah, and Wisconsin as Republican contests. That will give him some time to build campaigns, though not a lot.”
University of Dayton political scientist Dan Birdsong said Rubio’s exit may make Kasich look more appealing to Republicans looking for an alternative to Trump and Cruz.
“At the very least Kasich’s win should put him at the top of any short list for Vice President,” he said.