Kasich bringing long-shot presidential bid to Fairfield
FAIRFIELD — Whether it can lead him to the Republican presidential nomination is a major point of contention, but for the second time in two weeks, the unconventional path of John Kasich will take the potential Donald Trump spoiler to Connecticut.
Connecticut is one of five Northeast states up for grabs April 26 where Kasich needs to make a strong showing to demonstrate that he is not a one-hit wonder, having only won his home state so far.
Despite calls by Trump for him to drop out, Kasich is vowing to hang in the race through what could be a contested Republican National Convention this summer. His supporters contend that the swing-state governor and former House Budget Committee chairman is the only Republican leading Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in general election polls.
“Wouldn’t it be stupid to nominate Trump if he loses to Hillary and John can beat her?” said Christopher Shays, a former House colleague and close friend of Kasich.
Shays, who represented Fairfield County in Congress from 1987 to 2009, has been joined at the hip of Kasich in New Hampshire, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. He is expected to introduce him at Friday’s town hall, a format that Shays said allows Kasich to shine and is a stark contrast from Trump’s massive rallies.
“He’s been shaped by these town hall meetings,” Shays said. “He listens to what people ask. What Trump does is he flies in, talks to a group and leaves.”
Trump’s supporters in the state were dismissive of Kasich, who visited Greenwich for a March 30 fundraiser.
At stake in Connecticut are 28 delegates, three in each of the state’s five congressional districts awarded on a winner-take-all basis to the candidate with a plurality of votes. The remaining 13 at-large delegates are awarded proportionately to candidates who muster at least 20 percent of the vote statewide. They become winner-take-all if a candidate surpasses 50 percent of the total vote.
Historically more of a magnet for its bountiful campaign cash, Connecticut is emerging as a key piece of the jigsaw puzzle for both Republicans and Democrats to reach the magic number of delegates for clinching the nomination. It’s uncertain whether Trump can get the 1,237 to get there.
“Cruz is saying that (Kasich is) helping Trump and Trump is saying (Kasich) is taking votes from him,” Shays said. “Neither can win in the general as far as almost everyone knows. One is, in my judgment, someone who’s appealing to people’s anger, one is appealing to people’s hope based on a track record of success, and one is appealing to the religious right.”
Cruz’s volunteers say that even in deep-blue Connecticut there is support for the Trump rival.
“There’s plenty of conservatives in the state, as you well know, and there’s only one conservative left,” said Bob MacGuffie, a tea party stalwart from Fairfield leading the volunteer effort in the state for Cruz. “There’s a good ground game. We’ll get more than 20 percent of the statewide vote.”
“My students are going to be there,” Rose said. “Kasich certainly represents the establishment wing of the party. We know that establishment Republicans are largely what Connecticut is known for.”