- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s drubbing in New York’s Republican presidential primary Tuesday left his camp blaming anti-Trump forces for failing to deliver — and even prompted Democrats to wonder why he is still in the race.

It was the latest stumble for Mr. Kasich, who lags on just about every measure. He has won one of the 41 contests so far — his home-state primary — and trails in delegates and the popular vote tally. Indeed, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who dropped out of the race a month ago, still has more delegates and more total votes than Mr. Kasich.

“I get the feeling he never played sports as a kid, because you learn how to read a scoreboard and you learn how to leave the field gracefully,” said Mike McKenna, a Republican Party strategist. “He will never just look at the scoreboard and say, ‘I am done.’”

On Wednesday, the Kasich camp said his second-place finish in New York is more proof that he is emerging as the anti-Trump candidate as the race shifts next week to Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Mr. Kasich did top Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, but he was swamped by front-runner Mr. Trump, who won 60 percent of the vote and appears headed for a string of victories in the Northeast, where Mr. Kasich was supposed to make his stand.

Mr. Trump is the only candidate left who can clearly win an outright majority on the first ballot at July’s nominating convention. Mr. Kasich, Mr. Cruz and Republican Party establishment leaders fearful of Mr. Trump are searching for ways to block the billionaire businessman and force the contest to go to multiple ballots at the convention, where someone other than Mr. Trump could emerge.

John Weaver, chief strategist for the Kasich campaign, said there is a plan to try to deny Mr. Trump delegates in the upcoming states but that the forces failed to do their part in New York.

“The #NeverTrump movement missed opportunities to take delegates away from Donald Trump in more than half a dozen New York congressional districts last night by not engaging in any serious ways,” he said.

Mr. Trump is projected to have won at least 89 of New York’s 95 Republican National Convention delegates, and Mr. Kasich won at least three.

“I like Kasich and want him to win,” said John Feehery, a Republican Party strategist. “But he has to start winning some states if he wants any rationale for getting the nomination.”

With just a single victory so far, Mr. Kasich will struggle to meet the convention’s rule requiring candidates to have won a majority of delegates in at least eight states to even be considered for the nomination.

But if delegates are given the chance to vote their conscience in a contested convention, Mr. Kasich says, they will vote for him because polls show that he would defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton in a general election matchup.

Mr. Kasich has marched to the beat of a different drummer since entering the race in late July.

The 63-year-old ceded the Iowa caucuses to his rivals to focus most of his attention and limited resources on New Hampshire, where he finished a distant second to Mr. Trump.

From there, he picked up a limited number of delegates in Vermont, Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and North Carolina before collecting 66 in the Ohio primary March 15, defeating Mr. Trump by 11 percentage points.

He went cold after that, failing to win a delegate until New York.

Analysts say his lackluster performance at the ballot box this primary season has undercut his attempts to orchestrate a comeback through a contested convention in July.

“Kasich’s problem is twofold. By remaining in the race, he divides the anti-Trump vote, which makes it more likely Trump gets to 1,237 delegates and locks up the nomination on the first ballot,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Republican Party strategist. “Also, Kasich’s argument that he can win is undermined by the fact that he lost everywhere but his home state of Ohio. It doesn’t matter what the polls show if the facts on the ground tell a different story.”

Mr. McKenna, meanwhile, said it is “complete fiction” for Mr. Kasich to think he will emerge as the “white knight” in the contest.

“It is pretty grim when your argument is, ‘I ran and I failed miserably, and that is why they are going to pick me,’” he said.

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