Microphone in hand, Republican John Kasich promised the crowd inside a high-tech Ohio factory Saturday that he’ll never be beholden to Washington insiders if he wins the White House in November.
But as he zigzags across the state before Ohio’s GOP primary on Tuesday - emboldened by polls showing him edging ahead of rival Donald Trump - Kasich may soon need all the Washington insiders he can get.
Behind the scenes, strategists for Kasich, the Ohio governor, are studying arcane party rules that they believe could offer a path to the Republican nomination if he wins his home state, his aides said.
It is a long-shot strategy, both for Kasich and the anti-Trump forces inside the party. But if fellow GOP candidate Marco Rubio loses his own state of Florida on Tuesday - as polls predict - a surge by Kasich may be the only viable strategy for Republicans looking to stop Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination.
A loss by Rubio, a senator, will almost certainly end his struggling candidacy. If Trump wins both Ohio and Florida, the New York real estate mogul’s march to the nomination will be all but assured.
Ford O'Connell, a Republican strategist not affiliated with any presidential candidate, expects Kasich to face a tough battle even if he wins Ohio.
“But for some of these anti-Trump voters, if they can get Kasich to a contested convention, they see that as their best hope of blocking Trump."