UPDATED: Kasich tries to reel in Pa. Republicans

    Hours before his arrival in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon

    Hours before his arrival in Philadelphia Thursday afternoon

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich attended a Center City Philadelphia fundraiser Thursday, hoping to reel in the support of Pennsylvania Republicans who’ve backed somebody other than Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Does he have a chance?

    If you listen to the guv, it’s kind of hard not to believe.

    “The Republicans have had 10 contested conventions,” Kasich told reporters before heading into his fundraiser. “Of the ten contested conventions, seven times they selected somebody as the nominee who went into the convention with less votes than the front-runner. The frontrunners have won three out of 10.”

    Kasich said he’s sure there will be a contested convention, and when delegates look at the high unfavorable ratings that both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz bring, they’ll realize nominating either would lose the White House and hurt Republicans running for other offices.

    “When you have the kind of negatives that we see these people having, you get into a fall election where they consistently lose, and you really start to put [Republican control of] the United States Senate at risk,” Kasich said. “You also begin to put at risk the members of the state houses around the country, and I don’t want to see that happen.”

    Does he have the juice to get it done?Kasich hasn’t accumulated a ton of delegates in the Republican sweepstakes, but he is one of three candidates still standing. Muhlenberg College political scientist Chris Borick said Kasich, as the governor of a neighboring state, is doing well in Pennsylvania, where he also has family ties.

    “You have a chance that he could win,” Borick said. “And for John Kasich, it would be enormous to win a state other than his home state, to get another level of credibility going to the convention.”

    A recent poll shows Kasich running well in Pennsylvania, in second place at three points behind Donald Trump. To gain momentum, Kasich needs to pick up the support of Keystone State party leaders and fundraisers who had backed candidates who have since dropped out.

    Manny Stamatakis is an insurance executive who was state finance chairman for the Jeb Bush campaign in Pennsylvania. He’s among those who sponsored Kasich’s Philadelphia fundraiser. If no candidate has the delegates for a first ballot win at the convention, he said, delegates will have to make a tough decision.

    “You will have to focus on a candidate that can win in November,” Stamatakis said in an interview. “And I haven’t seen any polls that show Donald Trump winning in November, and I’ve seen polls that show the person that beats Hillary the best so far is Kasich.”

    Bob Asher, the Republican National Committeeman from Montgomery County was another organizer of the fundraiser. He had been a Marco Rubio supporter. He’s now in the Kasich camp.

    The Ted Cruz campaign is also reaching out to Pennsylvania Republicans, telling them that Cruz is the only candidate with a hope of stopping Trump — and thus a vote for Kasich is wasted, in effect, a vote for Trump

    “That’s a lot of hot air from the Cruz campaign,” said U.S. Rep. Charle Dent,  R-Lehigh.

    Dent, an early Kasich supporter, said neither Cruz nor Kasich have a realistic path to getting a majority of delegates before the convention.

    “Essentially, Ted Cruz is in the same position that John Kasich is in,” Dent told me. “Then once we get to the convention, the question will be, which candidate can secure a majority of the votes, and I think it will be much harder for Ted Cruz to secure a majority of delegates than John Kasich.”

    Dent said Cruz appeals less to party regulars and has shown little ability to build personal relationships in the Senate. And he said the personal animosity between Cruz and Trump will make it hard for Trump to win any Cruz delegates, making an open convention more likely.

    Borick says Cruz supporters have another, more indirect argument for support — that even if you want Kasich to be the nominee, your only hope is for an open convention, and that’s more likely if Cruz does well in the remaining states.

    “It’s a weird scenario, like everything in this particular election cycle is off-kilter,” Borick said. “But you may very well support Ted Cruz just to make sure that Donald Trump doesn’t get to the magic number, with the assumption that he’s not going to be the nominee either, that this is going to be a blocking pattern.”

    Both Cruz and Kasich are attending a Republican leadership meeting in Hershey Friday. TV ads are bound to follow soon.

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