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Saturday, October 21, 2017

John Kasich’s number crunchers must be hard at work. The Ohio governor genuinely believes Donald Trump will fall short of picking up a sufficient number of delegates ahead of the Republican convention.

In the face of deep skepticism, and with key figures in the Republican establishment siding with Ted Cruz, Gov. Kasich is doubling down on his ever more confusing choice to stay in the Republican presidential primary. This week, he asked two seasoned political operatives to prepare for the convention.

On Monday, on Fox News, Kasich said of Trump: “He’s not going to get to 1,237. That’s like saying ‘What if a spaceman lands tonight?’ We’re going to a convention.”

Kasich was also buoyed by polls stating he is the most likely candidate to defeat Hillary Clinton. He referenced the Quinnipac poll at many of his events this past week in Wisconsin, which votes April 5.

It could come down to money, and whether or not a handful of major donors continue to fund his primary super PAC, New Day for America. Funds are running low despite big cash injections in the first two months of this year.

Boich Industries, an Ohio coal marketing company that has backed Gov. Kasich before, pumped in $1 million into New Day in January. At the end of February, billionaire hedge fund owner Julian Robertson gave the group $500,000. Others donated between $100,000 and $300,000.

Kasich’s campaign committee had just $1.25 million in cash on hand at the end of February. But it did manage to pull in a respectable $3.4 million during the month, and Kasich’s campaign has been incredibly low cost, relatively speaking.

In addition, Kasich wants to stay alive long enough for New York and Pennsylvania’s primaries, later in April. Those are states where he believes he will poll well, according to Dan Birdsong, a lecturer in political science at the University of Dayton, Ohio.

Wisconsin will prove crucial for Kasich’s ability to keep raising just enough money to stay in the race, and to persuade his supporters a convention floor fight is at least possible.

While some analysts suggest Kasich is running a distant third in Wisconsin, most recent numbers suggest otherwise. The figures are good, and Wisconsin could host a tight three-way race, with Kasich set to pick at least some delegates.

The latest Optima poll of more than 7,000 likely voters puts Donald Trump in the lead at 29 percent, Kasich at 27, and Cruz at 25. Kasich is leading, according to the poll, in two congressional districts: those covering the counties surrounding the state capital, Madison, and suburbs and towns to the north of Milwaukee.

Wisconsin has a winner-takes-most Republican primary. The overall state-wide winner picks up 18 delegates, but three delegates are available in each of the state’s eight congressional districts.

Birdsong, who has followed Kasich’s political and private career for many years, said Kasich is more than a hanger-on.

“Every move he has made is what you to do to make a serious run for the presidency,” said Birdsong. “First Washington as a congressman, then some time in the private sector, then the next move, the typical path through the governorship.”

Birdsong also believes the Republican National Convention, which will take place in Cleveland in July, may have also played a part in Kasich’s decision to stay in the race when “most people would have gotten out by now.”

He is also motivated, said Birdsong, by his belief that Donald Trump is dangerous, and that Ted Cruz has no chance of breaking beyond his conservative base and winning in November.

As a spokesman for Mr. Kasich, Mike Schrimpf, said Monday, as the convention draws closer, “more and more of the delegates are going to focus on who can actually win in November.” 

Photo: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich addresses the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) afternoon general session in Washington March 21, 2016.      REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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