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National

Kasich Won't Drop Out, Believes He'll Succeed In A Contested Convention

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Our colleague Domenico Montanaro made a calculation quite some days ago that has stuck with me ever since. It was about presidential candidate John Kasich, who was in third place among Republicans. The calculation was that all John Kasich had to do to win the Republican nomination was win 101 percent of the remaining convention delegates.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Ha, ha, ha, Steve. How do you - come on, 101?

INSKEEP: One hundred and one percent - that was the number. And Kasich actually has lost more states since then.

MONTAGNE: Well, then how do you get to 101 percent?

INSKEEP: Well, you don't, I assume. But Kasich says he's in the race and that he means to win. So Domenico, who's our political editor, is here to talk through how to do that. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: I assume that 101 percent number is even worse?

MONTANARO: Yeah, it is. I mean, that was a couple weeks ago. And he's at 124 percent of all remaining delegates now.

INSKEEP: Wow.

MONTANARO: So - I mean, the fact is, he can't win. He's mathematically eliminated through traditional means, OK? He's going to - if he wins, he's going to have to do this in a nontraditional way and hope for a brokered convention and a few ballots, at that.

INSKEEP: Well, what is his case to the public - to the country - given that he has lost so many primaries at this point?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, that's something that was raised in a meeting yesterday where John Kasich was in D.C. - not far, actually, from the Republican National Committee headquarters. He was meeting with donors and campaign strategists. And the campaign strategists were laying out, after that Wisconsin loss - a place where, you know, you would think a Midwestern governor could do well - how he could still win this thing. And one advisor who was in the meeting told me that this was a meeting to rev up the troops and explain how he could emerge the winner after a few ballots at the convention.

INSKEEP: After a few ballots at the convention - would you walk us through the process there?

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Well - and, you know, the thing is there, he's going to have to hope to keep Donald Trump below the 1,237...

INSKEEP: OK, that's the first thing - that you actually have to have a contested convention - nobody has a majority.

MONTANARO: Yeah, I mean, you can't - it's a two-step process, essentially. Like, you can't get to a majority without a majority, right? So if you're at 1,237, which is the majority of all the delegates, then John Kasich can try to hope that he can be somebody who they would consider on a second ballot. The problem is the Republican National Committee created this rule called rule 40 to - you know, which says that the only person who can be the nominee is someone who's won a majority of delegates in eight different states. So far, only Donald Trump has done that. Ted Cruz is on his way to doing that. He has won six. So John Kasich - if John Kasich or anyone else - Paul Ryan, anyone else - wants to be the nominee, they're going to have to have that rule changed.

INSKEEP: Wow, so you're saying that unless that rule is changed, John Kasich could actually be mathematically eliminated twice here.

MONTANARO: Well, not only John Kasich but anybody else. It would only be Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. So the national - the RNC is meeting a week before the convention. There is two strains of thought. Some people think that they definitely have to change it for the sake of the party. And other people think, you know, a lot of the rules that Donald Trump have thought are unfair, he's been wrong that they've been unfair. You know, to say 1,237 is a very random number - it is not a very random number. It's a majority plus one. But to say that you're going to now change the rules of the game on him - that they might interpret as being unfair.

INSKEEP: This gets to a bottom-line question. We've got about 20 seconds here, Domenico. Even if you can change the rules, even if you can get through all different processes, can you really take the nomination from the guy who has the most votes - probably going to Trump - most delegates and give it to the second or third-place candidate or some other person?

MONTANARO: Well - and that's something that's happened in history, you know, before 1976. That was the last time we had an open convention. But that is going to be a big moral question, a very difficult one, and there's certainly going to be a lot of tension on the floor there in Cleveland if they attempt it.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.