After over a year of hand-wringing and evasive answers, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich made it clear Friday that he likely won't be entering the 2020 fray. Though the politician had long been rumored to be mounting a primary challenge or third party run against President Donald Trump , Kasich now concedes he does not have a viable shot at the presidency. “I’ve never gotten involved in a political race I didn’t think I could win, and right now there’s no path,” Kasich said in a CNN interview Friday. “Ninety percent of the Republican Party supports” Trump, Kasich added, and he's not interested in running a purely symbolic campaign.
Kasich's longtime political adviser John Weaver , is still leaving the door open. “Millions have left the party since Trump became president,” he told Rolling Stone on Friday, clarifying the former governor's dilemma. “We could defeat Trump in New Hampshire, but then what?” Kasich, too, isn't ready to close himself off entirely to the possibility that he could still run. “I like to say all of my options are on the table, either for now or for later, and we just see how the spirit moves me and what the opportunities are,” Kasich said Thursday at an event in Detroit. “I can’t predict what’s going to happen in my life.”
That's a pretty marked change from Kasich's position back in November 2018, when he told ABC News that he was having “earnest conversations that go on virtually every day” about another presidential run. As recently as April, he maintained that “all of my options remain on the table.” As one of the most prominent GOP Trump critics, Kasich had emerged as one of the more popular Republicans to potentially take on Trump in 2020; former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had been among those calling for Kasich to run, describing him as an “extraordinary guy.” But given Kasich's previous 2016 defeat and a deeply conservative record that would likely ward off left-leaning swing voters, a primary challenge was always a long shot. “At this point, it doesn’t seem like there is a path for John Kasich to be the next president of the United States,” Kyle Kondik , managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the Cincinnati Enquirer in December. “If Trump were to have an implosion, wouldn’t the GOP turn to someone else other than John Kasich? It’s not like there was some giant demand for John Kasich in 2016.”
The former governor's decision to stay out of the 2020 horse race doesn't mean that Republicans will refrain from taking on Trump altogether. Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld has already launched his primary campaign against Trump, and other potential challengers, including former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and newfound impeachment advocate Rep. Justin Amash , could soon throw their hats into the 2020 ring. Whether any of them will find a path to victory where Kasich couldn't remains to be seen, though there does seem to be some GOP appetite for a Trump alternative. An April ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that 30% of conservatives and 15% of GOP voters will not vote for Trump again, which does raise the possibility that a GOP challenger, whether vying for the Republican nomination or mounting a third-party run (Amash, should he run, would possibly do so as a Libertarian ), could garner a not-insignificant amount of support. Yet any conservative bid to take on Trump will surely be an uphill battle, particularly as the Republican National Committee remains staunchly behind Trump and ready to quash his competitors. “The R.N.C. and the Republican Party are firmly behind the president,” R.N.C. spokeswoman Cassie Smedile told the New York Times after Weld announced his run. “Any effort to challenge the president’s nomination is bound to go absolutely nowhere.”
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