Philip Maddocks: Kasich trampled in GOP rush to flee Cruz
John Kasich was left bruised and battered after being trampled by hundreds of GOP lawmakers hastily fleeing Ted Cruz and chasing after Donald Trump following the New York primary on April 19.
The Ohio governor, who had hoped to use his second-place finish to furnish his struggling campaign with some momentum going into the upcoming primaries, was instead left prostrate after crossing into the path of a caravan of anxious establishment Republicans, dressed in red “make America Great Again” baseball caps and led by a resolute Mitt Romney, riding roughshod through New York in an effort to chase down and embrace the party’s clear front-runner and wash their hands of Cruz.
Kasich vowed to stay in the presidential race, and called his treatment following the Republican primary battle in New York “disgraceful.”
Still bloodied and dressed in a torn white dress and soiled trousers, Kasich continued to argue that he was the only GOP hopeful who could beat Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton in the general election. He told about 300 supporters at Hofstra University that he was committed to staying in the race and ridiculed the GOP for chasing after Trump and leaving him and his campaign aides for dead.
“I’m not going anywhere, especially not with this broken arm, so what have these clowns accomplished?” Kasich said. “I mean, I warned them about Cruz, that he’s not some acquired taste you learn to like. But would anybody listen?”
Kasich’s complaint had little effect on GOP leaders, whose frantic rush to embrace Trump continued apace as the real estate mogul closed in on the Republican nomination and Romney and his GOP army rode through New York warning Cruz to “leave Donald the hell alone.”
Never comfortable with its embrace of Cruz, the GOP establishment seemed to recognize Trump’s convincing victory in New York as a means of abruptly letting go.
Trump is now suddenly being described as someone who wants to get stuff done, someone who is not a strategic threat to the future of the republic and who is more than just a buffoon and a political opportunist.
And many, like Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, expressed “a sense of relief” as they abandoned Cruz and galloped after Trump.
“If you want to be a winner, a good way to begin is by getting behind someone who is winning,” said Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who led the Republican take-over in 1994.
As GOP leaders sought to put as much distance between themselves and their tepid endorsements of Cruz, Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump, said she is surprised the denunciations of the unpopular senator from Texas hadn’t come sooner.
“The GOP should have disavowed Cruz sooner and run over Kasich months ago,” she said in a statement.
But even as they tended to their wounds and tried to hitch a ride to Pennsylvania ahead of the primary there, Kasich and his campaign held out hope the Ohio governor might prevail as the lesser of three evils.
At Hofstra, Kasich criticized the negative tone of the GOP primary race and said he would remain “polite.”
“I’m not going in there operating in the gutter,” he said, “unless of course I’m pushed in there by Romney. Then all bets are off.”
“I’ve got news for Kasich,” said Reince Priebus, the Republican National Committee chairman. “We have an election coming up. So, if you did not care for what happened in New York, stay out of our way.”
Others were more sympathetic to the Ohio governor’s complaint, and said crushing him into the New York dirt was nothing personal.
“I like John, I really do, but you don’t get to Donald without trampling John,” said Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida who left the presidential race after the South Carolina primary,
But even as Republicans rush from one from one unpalatable candidate to another, there is a growing sense in the party that the leaders’ work is not done.
Bush noted, ruefully, the issue for pragmatists used to be, What’s worse for a democracy: When a bad guy gets elected or when the losers refuse to lose?
“I’m not so sure,” he said, “that that’s an either-or question for us anymore.”
— Philip Maddocks writes a weekly satirical column. He can be reached at email@example.com.