The remarks dovetail with a strategy proposed by Mitt Romney, who urged Republicans opposing Donald Trump to coalesce around the leading non-Trump candidate in upcoming nominating contests.
A top aide to Sen. Marco Rubio urged the candidate’s supporters in Ohio to support Gov. John Kasich in that state’s Tuesday primary, giving fresh momentum to efforts to stop Donald Trump, a day after a debate in which his rivals declined to take a swing at the leading Republican presidential candidate.
Alex Conant, Rubio’s spokesman, made the comments in an interview with CNN. He said he hoped supporters of Kasich and of Sen. Ted Cruz would support Rubio in his home state primary in Florida on Tuesday, and that he would suggest Rubio’s backers in Ohio do the same by supporting Kasich there.
“I’m just stating the obvious,” Conant said. “If you are a Republican primary voter in Ohio and you want to defeat Donald Trump, your best chance in Ohio is John Kasich, because John Kasich is the sitting governor, he’s very close to Donald Trump in some of the polls there.”
Conant said the reverse was true in Rubio’s home state of Florida, suggesting that supporters of Kasich and Cruz back Rubio there.
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The remarks dovetail with a strategy proposed by Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 nominee, who urged Republicans opposing Trump to coalesce around the leading non-Trump candidate in coming nominating contests to deny the nomination to Trump.
Conant said: “My answer is John Kasich is the one candidate in Ohio that can beat Donald Trump. That’s stating the obvious; that is indisputable.”
In a news conference in West Palm Beach, Fla., Rubio echoed the sentiment, but did not go as far in urging his supporters to back Kasich in Ohio.
“Clearly John Kasich has a better chance of winning Ohio than I do,” Rubio said. And if Ohioans concluded that the best way to stop Trump was to vote for Kasich, the Florida senator said: “I expect that’s the decision they’ll make.”
Asked directly if he was urging his people to vote for Kasich in Ohio, he said of his spokesman, “I’ll leave it for John to make that argument.”
Cruz, speaking in Orlando on Friday, dismissed the strategy, indulging in a laugh when asked about it.
“It’s the Washington establishment’s last gasp: ‘Let’s divide things up. Let’s play games,’ ” Cruz said in a taped interview with Fox News. “It’s real, real simple. How do you beat Donald Trump? You beat him.” Cruz argued, as he has for weeks, that he was the only candidate still capable of doing so.
Those hoping to defeat Trump acknowledge that if he wins either Ohio or Florida, it becomes much harder to deny him the nomination.
Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Kasich, naturally welcomed the idea of having Rubio’s supporters back the governor in Ohio’s primary.
“We agree with the Rubio campaign that the best chance to beat Donald Trump in Ohio is by voting for John Kasich,” Schrimpf added: “And in that spirit, Senator Rubio should immediately tell his super PAC to stop attacking the governor.”
In related developments:
Young Ohio voters: Seventeen-year-olds who will turn 18 before the fall presidential election can vote in Ohio’s presidential primary, Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Frye ruled Friday. Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted initially vowed to appeal the ruling and then opted not to fight it after a state appeals court set a hearing for Monday. Husted said the timing would give his office “no effective way to responsibly make the changes necessary to implement an orderly election.” He directed the state’s 88 county elections boards Friday night to comply with the order. Like other Ohioans, the 17-year-olds must already be registered to vote to cast a primary ballot. Nearly 7.6 million Ohioans are registered to vote, including more than 16,000 17-year-olds, according to Husted’s office. At least 20 other states allow 17-year-olds to vote in presidential primaries or caucuses, though rules sometimes vary based on political party, according to FairVote, an organization that tracks electoral issues.
Clinton apology: Hillary Clinton apologized Friday after gay-rights and AIDS activists assailed her for saying Nancy Reagan helped start a “national conversation” about AIDS in the 1980s, when protesters were struggling to get more federal help in fighting the disease. Clinton made her initial comments in an interview with MSNBC during its coverage of Nancy Reagan’s funeral. Soon after the interview aired, MSNBC’s Twitter feed was flooded with comments accusing Clinton of misrepresenting history and insulting the 1980s activists who pressured elected officials to step up the response to AIDS. Clinton soon apologized. “While the Reagans were strong advocates for stem-cell research and finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, I misspoke about their record on HIV and AIDS. For that, I am sorry,” Clinton said on her Twitter account.
Trump endorsement: Ben Carson endorsed Donald Trump on Friday, calling him a “very intelligent man that cares deeply about America.” Americans need to know that there are “two Donald Trumps,” Carson said. One is the man who has dominated headlines and the Republican primaries with his brash statements, said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon who captivated some conservative voters with his unconventional presidential campaign before dropping out of the race last week. The other is “very cerebral and sits there and considers things very carefully.” Carson and Trump appeared together at a news conference at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. Echoing a plea Trump has made in recent days, Carson implored Republican leaders to unite behind the front-runner. “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” Carson said, alluding to some Republican leaders who have said they will not back Trump.