Establishment’s Last Hope: Rubio And Kasich Face Must-Wins At Home

Reuters/Joe Skipper

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Republicans in five states and one U.S. territory head to the polls on Tuesday, but the focus nationally will be whether John Kasich and [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] can win their respective home states of Ohio and Florida and make the case they are still relevant in the contest.

Both Kasich, the governor of Ohio, and Rubio, the senator from Florida, have suggested their campaigns could come to an end without victories back home.

Last month, Kasich said on NBC’s Meet the Press: “I’m going to win Ohio. But if I don’t win Ohio, then, you know, ballgame over.”

He added: “You have to win your own home state, in my opinion, in order to continue forward.”

Campaigning last week in Florida, Rubio said: “I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican Party.”

But if the polls are correct, expect to hear that line repeated by frontrunner Donald Trump, who is up nearly 20 points on Rubio in the Real Clear Politics polling average. According to that site, Trump leads in Florida with 42.9 percent, followed by Rubio at 23.8 percent, Texas Sen. [crscore]Ted Cruz[/crscore] at 18.3 percent and Kasich at 9.3 percent.

Trump spent some of Monday campaigning in Florida with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Christie. He also won the endorsement of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

In Ohio, the polls show a much closer race: the polling average has Kasich at 38 percent, Trump at 34.3 percent, Cruz at 18 percent and Rubio at 4.7 percent.

For the establishment and anti-Trump activists, the hope is that if Rubio could win Florida and Kasich could win Ohio, it would be much harder for Trump to cross the 1,237 delegate threshold needed to secure the nomination before the convention. That would then lead to a contested convention.

Rubio’s campaign seems to be embracing this strategy. “If you are a Republican primary voter in Ohio and you want to defeat Donald Trump, your best chance in Ohio is John Kasich,” aide Alex Conant said on CNN last week, also saying the best person to vote for in Florida is Rubio.

Both Florida’s 99 delegates and Ohio’s 66 delegates, unlike in prior contests, are winner take all, meaning the victor in the state’s primary wins all the delegates instead of sharing them proportionally.

Also voting Tuesday are Republicans in Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Heading into Tuesday, Trump leads the race with 460 delegates. Cruz has 370, Rubio has 163 and Kasich has 63.

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