“Are polls showing big Clinton leads in states like OH & IL reliable?” �Margaret Newkirk and Mark Niquette, with Tim Higgins
helped him pay for trips to New Hampshire and South Carolina in the months before he announced his campaign. In January the party threw its support behind Kasich, breaking 64 years of neutrality in the presidential nominating process. (The last endorsement went to Robert Taft, in 1952.) Only one other candidate this year had the backing of a state party— New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose home state GOP got behind his candidacy.
Having the party’s backing gives Kasich a host of advantages. His surrogates are descending on official functions for the GOP faithful in a party- coordinated effort, “reaching literally thousands of surefire Republican primary voters,” says Matt Borges, the state GOP chairman. The events included 14 Lincoln Day dinners held around the state in early March, the signature local Republican party event of the primary season. “We had a Kasich surrogate at every single one of them,” says Borges. No other campaign showed.
The party is also deploying its voter turnout machine on Kasich’s behalf, driving a surge in absentee and early ballots, which typically account for a third of the vote. As of March 4, more than 84,000 had been received, according to the Ohio secretary of state’s office. “At the end of the day, we have the apparatus to turn out the vote,” says Borges. “It’s already been working for weeks, even months, to deliver this victory for John Kasich.”
Over the years, the Ohio GOP has polished absentee turnout to an art, including chasing snowbirds at their winter addresses and people who’ve moved out of state but haven’t yet updated their voter registration. The party sent mailers to about 150,000 absentee voters, each of whom will also receive follow-up calls from Kasich’s super PAC, a coordinated effort no other candidate can duplicate, says Borges. The party is sending a million more cards to Republican voters expected to vote on primary day. Republican candidates for local office are carrying Kasich campaign literature as they canvass, as will more than 1,000 volunteers coordinated by the state party.
Kasich has said he’ll drop out if he doesn’t win Ohio, which awards its 66 delegates on a winner-take-all basis. So far he hasn’t won a single primary, but he’s accumulated 54 delegates in states that distribute them proportionally. His best performance has been in Vermont, where he won 30 percent of the vote and came in second.
On March 6, Kasich held a state kickoff rally in Columbus, where he was introduced by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who endorsed Kasich in a video earlier the same day. The former California governor told the crowd that Kasich was “an action hero when he went to Washington.” Kasich’s super PAC, New Day for America, has eight offices in the state. The super PAC and the campaign will spend about $1.7 million combined on TV ads through the primary.
Donald Trump is the only other candidate airing ads in Ohio, spending about $1 million, according to Kantar Media. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz appear to be focusing on Florida, which votes the same day as Ohio. Nevertheless, some Republicans say it’s not a surprise that Kasich’s campaign trails Trump’s in the polls, despite a home-field advantage. “He hasn’t really run a presidential campaign in Ohio yet,” says Curt Steiner, a Republican consultant from Columbus. “It sounds crazy, but he hasn’t done that.”
Fivethirtyeight Editor-in-chief Nate Silver after Bernie Sanders’s March 8 victory in Michigan. Before the primary, Silver’s models gave Hillary Clinton a 99 percent chance of winning. The bottom line Ohio’s state GOP has activated its absentee voter machine on behalf of Governor Kasich in the March 15 presidential primary.