Folksy Ohio Gov. John Kasich brought his longshot campaign to Connecticut on Friday to make the case that Republicans who want to stop Donald Trump should vote for him Tuesday.
“The other guys can’t win,” Kasich told more than 500 people who attended a town hall Friday at Glastonbury High School.
Insisting that “everything is so volatile now,” Kasich said that none of the remaining trio of GOP candidates will have enough delegates to capture the party’s nomination on the first ballot at its summertime convention in Cleveland.
He poked fun at Trump’s promise to build a wall on the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. “I’m hoping the tooth fairy will put the money underneath my pillow” instead, Kasich joked.
Kasich also asked if people would rather have their plane piloted by someone with a lot of experience, or someone with little background who promises them “I can do it. I’m really great.”
Kasich isn’t trying to win outright at this point. He is merely hoping to stop Trump from collecting the 1,237 delegates he needs for a first ballot endorsement. If there is a convention battle, Kasich is angling to snatch the party’s endorsement despite a virtually certain third-place finish in the primaries.
There are 28 Republican delegates at stake in Connecticut. Kasich’s campaign aims to pick up at least some of them by holding Trump below 50 percent of the overall vote.
He’s counting in part on the support of a number of Republican moderates — from state Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano to former U.S. Reps. Nancy Johnson, Chris Shays, and Larry Denardis — to help him pull it off.
Shays said Kasich is “clearly the guy who can beat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders” and is “the one person who can do the job” if he’s elected in November.
Edward Ford Sr., of Middletown, said he came to see Kasich because he may be the one candidate who can successfully balance political considerations with the ability to get things done. He’s especially concerned with people who are trying to push sinful social policies.
Kasick “has old-fashioned, American values,” said Margaret LaCroix, of Glastonbury. Her son, Tim, declared the governor the best of the five major candidates left in the race.
Kasich said he wants to help Americans do more for themselves and each other.
He pointed to the example of the UConn women’s basketball team after asking, “Why do we even play women’s basketball?” He joked the team should just get the national championship trophy automatically.
Then Kasich pointed out that Coach Geno Auriemma does what a good president would in assembling great players and helping them reach their potential, the same thing he would like to do in the White House.
John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist, told reporters that “it’s now or never to stop Trump and save the Republican Party.”
State Sen. Tony Hwang, Kasich’s state campaign chairman, said that as a centrist who’s fiscally conservative and reasonable on social issues, Kasich’s message can resonate in Connecticut.
He urged voters to put aside the rhetoric and anger they’re hearing and vote instead for a man with a solid record who can actually defeat the Democrats.
But Democrats said voters shouldn’t fool themselves.
“Kasich wants you to believe he is a moderate, but his record shows just the opposite. He is just as extreme as Ted Cruz or Donald Trump on the issues that matter most to Americans and would institute the same failed policies they are proposing, just with a smile instead of a scowl,” said state Democratic Party Executive Director Alynn Woischke in a statement issued Friday.
Weaver said that Cruz, a Texas senator, “simply won’t play” in the primaries Tuesday because his brand of politics won’t resonate with the more traditional GOP voters in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
“A vote for Cruz in these states is a vote for Trump,” Weaver said. “And a vote for Cruz or Trump is a vote for Hillary Clinton in November because neither of them can win a general election.”
A number of national polls show that either Clinton or her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders, would easily defeat Cruz or Trump if the election were held soon. Kasich, on the other hand, has a shot at winning against the Democrats, the same polls indicate.
But Kasich faces long odds.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that more than half of Connecticut Republicans have a favorable or somewhat favorable view of Trump, who had the support of 48 percent of GOP voters. Kasich had 28 percent while Cruz carried 19 percent.
The poll director, Douglas Schwartz, said Kasich is “clearly outpacing Cruz” for second place but is still “running well behind Trump” among GOP voters who have shown a preference for outsider candidates such as Linda McMahon and Tom Foley in recent years — a trend that may help Trump.
The polls are open Tuesday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Registered Republicans and Democrats can vote in their respective party primaries. New and unaffiliated voters can still participate if they register with a town clerk or registrars by noon Monday.