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John Kasich ends his campaign, leaving Trump as the sole Republican in the presidential race

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks in Portland, Ore., last week.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks in Portland, Ore., last week.

(Steve Dykes / Associated Press)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who tried to position himself as the adult in the room of presidential contenders, dropped out Wednesday, becoming the final casualty in Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party.

Trump became the presumptive nominee after his big win in the Indiana primary Tuesday night and the subsequent withdrawal of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, but Kasich’s exit eliminated the 16th and final hurdle to Trump’s coronation as the party’s new standard-bearer.

“The spirit, the essence of America lies in the hearts and souls of us,” Kasich said during a 20-minute speech in Columbus, Ohio, announcing his withdrawal. “Some missed this message. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t a great sound bite.”

Kasich did not name Trump or any of his former rivals. But the tone and message — a call for lifting one another up, searching for God’s purpose, and slowing down our lives — served as an implicit rebuke of Trump’s combative style. Kasich praised the country as he recalled his months on the trail, even pronouncing himself lucky to sit in traffic in Los Angeles over the course of the campaign.

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Kasich’s chances of gaining the nomination never really materialized. Many politicos had joked that he was the only candidate who had managed to come in fourth in a two-man race. Trump, Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio – who dropped out more than six weeks ago – all have more delegates than Kasich. His only primary victory came in his home state of Ohio.

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Still, Kasich has long been convinced, despite the electoral math, that he could win, if only voters would take the time to get to know him. He emphasized his broad experience as both the governor of a swing state and an influential member of Congress who crossed party lines during the Clinton administration to forge a balanced budget deal.

Kasich’s campaign events were generally intimate affairs. He liked town halls where he could talk to small groups of voters about policy and finding meaning in their lives, and occasionally give them hugs. It was a contrast to Kasich’s prior reputation as a prickly politician, but an even bigger contrast to Trump’s rowdy rallies in large arenas.

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“The people of our country changed me,” Kasich said Wednesday, recalling a man whose son had cancer and other poignant encounters. “They changed me with the stories of their lives.”

Many inside the rooms came away moved and impressed, but there were not enough of them to make much of a dent in Trump’s campaign. Exit polls showed Republican voters valued outsiders who could take on Washington over establishment figures like Kasich who had worked the inside game.

Kasich spent most of the campaign ignoring Trump, declining to criticize or engage him in most debates and public speeches. That allowed him to stick around longer than his rivals, drawing him closer to the two-person race he was seeking. But the risk in that strategy — that Trump would keep building strength — was apparent from the outset. And even as other candidates dropped out, Kasich gained little while Cruz won endorsements and donations from many leading Republicans bent on stopping Trump.

It was only in the final days of the campaign that Kasich attempted to halt Trump’s path to the nomination, agreeing to a last-ditch pact with Cruz to divide their assets among a few remaining states.

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The candidates both believed that if they could deny Trump from getting a majority of the party’s delegates, they could win the nomination at a contested convention this summer. Now, however, there is little doubt that Trump will claim the party’s nomination.

Kasich’s cheerful campaign style made him few enemies on the campaign trail. “I like John. I’ve had a good relationship with John,” Trump said on CNN on Wednesday, raising the specter he might choose him as a running mate.

But Democrats in his home state feasted, accusing him of “pursuing his presidential ambitions and ignoring the needs of the people of Ohio” and demanding that his campaign tally its cost to state taxpayers so they could be reimbursed.

Times staff writer Seema Mehta in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @noahbierman

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Ted Cruz was right: GOP voters wanted an anti-establishment candidate, just not him

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Trump ties Cruz’s father to JFK assassination. His source? The National Enquirer


UPDATES:

3:05 p.m.: This story was updated with Kasich announcing his campaign’s end.

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This story was originally published at 9:36 a.m.


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