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Government & Politics

Kasich's First Victory Ratchets Up the Chances of a Contested Convention

Gov. John Kasich is heading to Pennsylvania today, trying to convince voters there to join those in Ohio in helping him win the GOP presidential nomination. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports on Kasich’s convincing win in yesterday’s Ohio primary and a contested convention that is looking ever more likely.

Bigger than yourself
In most ways Kasich’s victory speech at Baldwin Wallace University was the same one he gave at a dozen stops throughout Ohio over the last week – running a positive campaign, jobs and economic recovery, and individual responsibility balanced with collective compassion:

“You’re here in a moment of time and your job is to find that purpose that you have. Your job is to live a little bit bigger than yourself. Your job is to be a center of healing and justice and hope in whatever way we can…” 

There were a few notable additions though. The Trump protester who interrupted his speech – whom Kasich told his supporters to leave alone before quipping:

“Well, you know, when you went to college in the 1970s, you appreciate a good peaceful protest every once in awhile.” 

Thanks to Democrats and Rubio
There was a thank you to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the presidential race just minutes before Kasich’s win was announced. And a thank you to Democrats who crossed over and voted for Kasich in Ohio’s largely open primary.

"You're here in a moment of time, and your job is to find that purpose that you have."

  For the governor , the reason they did that was clear.

“We had a lot of Democrats that said they didn’t like a socialist agenda or a left wing agenda or big government.” 

But some of those voters said they crossed over because they fear Donald Trump and saw Kasich as a way to stop him.

Trump? What Trump?!
For his part, Kasich didn't mention Trump – who won yesterday’s Florida, North Carolina and Illinois primaries convincingly. But Kasich repeated calls for an end to divisiveness and promised, “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.”

State Sen. Frank LaRose of Summit County campaigned with Kasich in New Hampshire and throughout Ohio, and celebrated the victory with him last night. LaRose says he’s seen Kasich’s message of moderation and experience work across party and ideological lines -- despite the campaign getting a late start and lagging in fundraising and national attention.

“We met voters door-to-door. We held over 100 town halls where folks got to ask questions. And I was there when a couple times when Gov. Kasich was the last one to leave the room. Everybody got their questions answered."

The Medicaid expansion meant something
Augusta Dobbins, who sat with her mother at the Kasich victory party, says her questions were answered by Kasich’s actions, rather than words. She’s a student at the University of Akron who benefitted from Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid over the objections of his own party.

“My dad passed away two years ago, and I didn’t have health insurance and it was a choice between giving up my education and getting a job for the health benefits. And because John Kasich expanded Medicaid, I was able to stay in college. I’m getting my masters this spring, and I’m really grateful to the governor for that.” 

A contested convention
During the victory speech, Kasich supporters rolled out a sign that read “The Little Engine that Can.”

But many of those supporters also acknowledge that likely the only way for Kasich to derail Trump would be through a contested convention this summer. That would happen if no one has the 1,237 delegates they need to win the GOP nomination outright – and the week in Cleveland in July will be filled with real negotiating for delegate support rather than the empty spectacle of most presidential conventions.

Mike Gonidakis, the head of Ohio Right to Life and a Kasich convention delegate, welcomes that.

“It absolutely will be a contested convention and that’s not a bad thing. We’re going to let democracy in its purest form play out on national TV. There’s not going to be any back room deals because we’re all going to be in Quicken loans arena together.” 

But there are four months and 21 states yet to vote before that would happen. And until then, John Kasich pledged, he intends to be all over the country making his case.