US Election 2016

Ohio governor John Kasich trumps tycoon in state

Mr Kasich celebrating his win in Ohio. He feels he has the best chance of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov 8 polls.
Mr Kasich celebrating his win in Ohio. He feels he has the best chance of beating Democrat Hillary Clinton in the Nov 8 polls.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

An Ohio woman who usually votes for Democrats, and her husband, a swing voter, asked for Republican ballots when they went to the polls in Brecksville on primary election day; not to vote for a candidate but against one - Mr Donald Trump.

"Trump in the White House would be a real disaster for the country," said the woman, who is in her 60s and asked not to be identified.

Crossover votes like theirs, combined with the popularity of the state's Republican governor, Mr John Kasich, kept one of Super Tuesday II's two biggest prizes out of the hands of the controversial billionaire businessman.

Mr Kasich dealt Mr Trump one of his biggest defeats of the primary season, beating him by almost 47 per cent to 35.7 per cent in Ohio, with Texas Senator Ted Cruz coming in a distant third on 13.1 per cent.

By contrast, Senator Marco Rubio went down to a campaign-ending defeat in his home state of Florida.

Mr Kasich's win kept a wisp of hope alive for the Republican Party establishment that Mr Trump would not bring enough delegates to claim outright victory at its convention in Cleveland in July. That could enable it to field a candidate more palatable to its stalwarts - and the US electorate - in the general election on Nov 8.

On the other side, the Democrats appear to be coalescing around former secretary of state Hillary Clinton after her own resounding victory over Senator Bernie Sanders in Ohio. The latest tally shows her winning 56.5 per cent to Mr Sanders' 42.7 per cent, leaving the party establishment to breathe a sigh of relief after the Vermont senator's shocking victory over Mrs Clinton in Michigan last week.

Although he has won only one state in the primaries - his own - Mr Kasich said he felt he has the best chance of beating Mrs Clinton in November.

Indeed, the Ohio governor gave his victory speech at Baldwin-Wallace University just 25km east of The Q, the home court of the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team and arena, where Republicans will crown their candidate in July, under a banner with the well-known American political adage: "As Ohio goes, so goes the nation."

Taking direct aim at Mr Trump - whose provocative rhetoric and snide remarks have sparked protests that prompted him to cancel a rally in Chicago last Friday, and brawls elsewhere - Mr Kasich pledged: "I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land."

No Republican has been elected president of the US without winning Ohio in the general election. Mr Kasich emphasised that in an interview on the Today show yesterday. "Neither Cruz nor Trump can win the general election. They can't come into Ohio with the philosophies they have, and win," he said. "You can't win Ohio, you can't be president."

At least one voter thinks Mr Trump does have a shot at winning Ohio, however, and the presidency. Mr Chris Parker, a 56-year-old financial planner, pointed to the large turnouts for him at Republican caucuses and primaries as evidence. "It's pretty clear that Mr Trump is a large reason for that," he told The Straits Times, while waiting in a long line to clear security and into a rally to hear the businessman last Saturday.

"While I'm not necessarily a Trump supporter, I think that Donald Trump has a significant opportunity in November," Mr Parker said. "If it's against Hillary Clinton, I definitely believe that."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Ohio governor Kasich beats tycoon in state'. Print Edition | Subscribe