John Kasich entered the 2016 Republican nomination race as an original member of the Republican clown show. As a group, Republican candidates did their best to offend Americans and foreigners when the opportunity presented itself.
For example, Jeb Bush spoke implicitly about black people relying on “free stuff”. Mike Huckabee made comments like this: “I trust Bernie Sanders with my tax dollars like I trust a North Korean chef with my Labrador”. Carly Fiorina blatantly lied about the practices at Planned Parenthood. Marco Rubio said President Obama was deliberately trying to destroy America and Donald Trump claimed Mexico was bringing drugs, crime and rapists to the United States, just to name a few.
The abhorrent language and repulsive policy positions has been one of the defining features of the Republican race.
Another interesting storyline in the Republican nomination process is the refusal of John Kasich to leave the race. There have been 37 Republican caucuses and primaries and John Kasich lost 36 of them. His only victory came from his home state of Ohio. If the trend continues, Kasich is expected to lose New York primary on April 19th. Under normal circumstances, this embarrassing rate of losses by a politician would typically result in an immediate suspension of their campaign. Apparently, John Kasich doesn't see himself as a disgraced afterthought in this unpredictable election season.
Throughout the campaign, Donald Trump has controlled the narrative, won the most primaries and obtained the most delegates. Donald Trump's bigotry and xenophobia has finally generated media and Republican Party pushback to the point of possibly having a contested Republican convention (the viable alternative to Trump being Ted Cruz, who has at least won a number of primaries and caucuses).
With the political map not in his favor and a contested convention that most likely results in Trump or Cruz becoming the Republican nominee, the question remains; Why is John Kasich still hanging around?
I would argue that Kasich has his sights on the 2020 Republican nomination. I believe John Kasich sees 2020 as more welcoming to his message and professed accomplishments in Ohio. Kasich anticipates a Republican Party ready for a candidate who would attempt to portray himself as a moderate, and he sees weakened candidates in Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Other Republican governors are predominantly far right-wing zealots. And there is no other Republican member of Congress, with the possible exception of Paul Ryan, that gives an impression of national ambition.
The Republican Party will most likely be coming off a 2016 election loss that rebukes blatant forms of extreme right conservatism. The Republican Party would want a candidate in 2020 with similar views, but also a person who passed bi-partisan legislation and speaks with more nuance and tolerance. John Kasich likely sees himself as that candidate.
The 2020 census and nationwide redistricting will be up for renewal and the political party in power at the House of Representatives level, controls the map. A fourth loss in a row at the presidential level in 2020 could potentially cost the Republicans the House majority. The Republican Party will attempt to avoid this loss at all cost. The Republican Party will probably make changes to the nomination process, debate schedule and primary calendar. But the standard bearer remains to be seen.
John Kasich has defiantly assumed short-term political humiliation is worth the gamble and hopes his ongoing presence in the 2016 Republican presidential race will pay dividends in 2020.