- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2016

CLEVELAND — Sen. Rob Portman is bullish about Gov. John Kasich’s prospects of winning the Ohio primary here on Tuesday, saying that a Kasich victory could change the contours of the Republican presidential race.

Mr. Kasich is betting that a victory here could revive his underdog bid to become the Republican nominee and silence the naysayers that have been calling on him to bow out of the race so that voters can consolidate behind a more viable alternative to businessman Donald Trump.

“I think if he wins Ohio, the dynamic shifts, as in I believe he will be the candidate to watch,” Mr. Portman said after a campaign event here with Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, vice chairwoman of the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, the campaign arm for Senate Republicans.

Mr. Kasich has yet to win a primary or caucus contest and has collected just 54 of the 1,237 need to win the nomination outright — putting him well behind Mr. Trump, 459; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, 360; and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, 152.

Some anti-Trump voters hope Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio can play spoiler on Tuesday by winning the winner-take-all contests in their home states, where 165 delegates are on the line.

Doing so would make it harder for Mr. Trump to gain a majority of delegates before the convention, where the nomination could be steered away from the tycoon.

Mr. Portman said it appears that Mr. Kasich is better positioned than Mr. Rubio to win Tuesday.

Some Republicans, though, want Mr. Kasich out of the race. They say the polls and the primary results show that Mr. Trump would be more vulnerable in a two-person race against Mr. Cruz.

Mr. Portman, who is running for re-election, said that Mr. Kasich’s odds of collecting enough delegates to win the nomination before the convention are slim, but said Mr. Kasich could emerge as a major player at contested convention.

“It is not necessarily that he will get the majority of the delegates — though anything is possible in this race, everything has been unpredictable so far — but he certainly would go into the convention with a lot of leverage,” Mr. Portman said. “I think that is good for Ohio.”

Political analysts say Mr. Kasich is angling to be a kingmaker at a contested convention and is eyeing the No. 2 slot on the GOP ticket.

Delegates to the nominating convention in Cleveland in July are bound to vote based on how their state went in the primary or caucus, but only on the first ballot. But if no one can muster an outright majority of the delegate votes prior to the convention, delegates can change their voters on ensuing ballots, which would open the door to horse-trading on the convention floor and test the organization of the campaigns.

“I think the delegates are going to have to decide,” Mr. Portman said. “I think it is more likely that the delegates will go with the person that has the largest number” of delegates coming into the convention.

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