Marco Rubio is encouraging his supporters to vote for John Kasich in the Ohio primary. He reasons that he can’t win there and that the next best thing to a victory is a result that halts the Trump express.
Kasich is in the same position in Florida. He can’t win there — he isn’t even campaigning — but a Rubio win would be a blow to Trump.
Kasich, however, is encouraging his Florida supporters to back him, not Rubio. He tells Jake Tappper:
I’m not into a stop Trump as more as I am be-for-Kasich movement. You know, reward me for the experience in foreign affairs. Reward me for the achievements I have had in balancing budgets and creating an environment for job creation, both in the country and in Ohio. Reward me for that.
Maybe we could just issue Kasich a medal and be done with him.
But Kasich is playing a different game. For one thing, he probably wants Rubio out of the race so he can begin to win some states (and not just his own). Currently, the two occupy similar space in the race — what some call the establishment lane.
Rubio, for his part, probably wouldn’t mind seeing Kasich gone. But having had more success to date than Kasich, he may be less desperately in need of a winnowing than Kasich is. The guy in third place has very little chance of succeeding even at a “brokered convention.” The guy in fourth place presumably has none.
In my opinion, though, the real difference between the two is that Kasich wants a place on a Trump ticket, whereas Rubio isn’t interested in one (or realizes there’s no longer any chance of it). This is why Kasich has been so uncritical of Trump in debate after debate. Sure, he wants to avoid being in the food fight so he can claim to be the adult in the room — as if it’s somehow “adult” to be in the middle of a sh*t show and pretend not to smell a thing.
But Kasich’s has carried his see-no-evil, hear-no-evil to the point that it’s impossible for me to view him as other than an opportunist trying to stay on Trump’s good side in order to keep his options open.
I think, then, that Kasich is being honest when he says it’s all about “reward[ing] me.” The reward he covets may well be the number two spot on a ticket headed by Donald Trump.
But with many conservatives credibly threatening not to support Trump, the tycoon may need to look rightward of Kasich for his running mate. Kasich might have to settle for a medal or maybe just a pat on the back.