MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump on Sunday called for John Kasich to drop out of the Republican presidential race, arguing that the Ohio governor who’s only won his home state so far shouldn’t be allowed to continue accumulating delegates if he has no chance of being the nominee.
Working to recover his edge after a difficult week, Trump said Kasich could ask to be considered at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July even without competing in the remaining nominating contests. Trump told reporters at a Milwaukee diner that he had relayed his concerns to Republican National Committee officials at a meeting in Washington this past week.
“He’s taking my votes,” Trump said about Kasich.
Kasich’s campaign tried to flip the script, contending that neither Trump nor Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would have enough delegates to win the nomination outright going into the convention.
“Since he thinks it’s such a good idea, we look forward to Trump dropping out before the convention,” said Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
And Kasich, in an earlier interview with ABC’s “This Week,” said he expected an “open convention” and that delegates would look to him, with experience in Congress and the state level. “That’s why I think I’m going to be the nominee.”
Trump’s declaration, two days before Wisconsin’s closely watched primary, came as Republican concerns grew about the prospect of convention chaos if Trump fails to lock up his party’s nomination — or even if he does.
Behind Cruz in the polls in Wisconsin, Trump faces the prospect that a loss Tuesday will raise further doubts that he can net the needed delegates, making it far easier for his party to oust him in a floor fight at the July convention.
Cruz, Trump’s closest challenger, has only a small chance to overtake him in the delegate hunt before the convention. Kasich has none.
Kasich has acknowledged that a contested convention is his only path to victory. He has faced calls in the past to bow out, but those nudges had dimmed following his decisive victory last month in his home state.
Still, Kasich suggested that a contested convention would not involve the chaos that party leaders fear. He told ABC that a contested convention will be “so much fun.”
“Kids will spend less time focusing on Bieber and Kardashian and more time focusing on how we elect presidents,” Kasich said. “It will be so cool.”
Republicans fear an unseemly internal fight would damage the party in November’s general election, and Trump isn’t ruling out the possibility that if he’s not the nominee, he could run as an independent, likely sinking the GOP’s chances for winning the White House.
Quips like that “have consequences,” said GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, though he tried to quell talk of a blowout convention fight. He told ABC that the process will be clear and open, with cameras there “at every step of the way.”
Frustration with the GOP field has stoked calls in some Republican corners for the party to use a contested convention to pick someone not even on the ballot. Priebus acknowledged that was a remote possibility, but he said he believed his party’s candidate would be “someone who’s running.”
Working to right his campaign after a rough patch, Trump has found himself on the defensive on Sunday, struggling to explain away controversies over abortion, nuclear weapons and his campaign manager.
“Was this my best week? I guess not,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Yet as he campaigned in Milwaukee, Trump returned to the confident bravado his supporters have come to expect. Stopping for breakfast at Miss Katie’s Diner, Trump predicted he’d do “very well” on Tuesday.
“We’re going to have a big surprise for you,” he said, adding: “We’re going to have a big success.”
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton said she has yet to get a request from the FBI for an interview regarding the private email system she used as secretary of state, an issue still dogging her campaign.
She also told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she was confident her campaign and Bernie Sanders’ could settle on a debate date before the consequential April 19 primary in New York.
The backbiting on both sides played out as President Barack Obama has warned that foreign leaders are alarmed about what they see transpiring in the U.S. election — especially Trump, whose calls for banning Muslim immigrants has reverberated in the Middle East. But Sen. Lindsey Graham, who dropped out of the race and has urged Republicans to support Cruz, said Sunday that people in the Mideast need not fear too much.
“The Congress is going to be around, no matter who is the president,” Graham, R-S.C., said in Cairo, while leading a congressional delegation to the region.
In a Washington Post interview, Trump warned that a “very massive recession” is coming, and he said he could eliminate the $19 trillion national debt in two terms. Most economists say that’s impossible without wrecking the federal budget.
The Democratic race has grown increasingly bitter, too, though less hostile than the Republican brawl. Both Clinton and Sanders had their sights set on New York, where Clinton hopes to avoid an upset in the state she represented in the Senate.
Clinton said she feels “sorry” for young Sanders supporters who believe unreliable information spread by his campaign about support she’s received from fossil-fuel interests.
Not so, Sanders told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“We were not lying,” he said. “We were telling the truth.”