“Are polls show­ing big Clin­ton leads in states like OH & IL re­li­able?” �Mar­garet Newkirk and Mark Ni­quette, with Tim Hig­gins

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Politics/policy -

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.

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