By Marc Kovac
and David Skolnick
With billionaire businessman Donald Trump heading toward the needed number of delegates to secure the Republican presidential nomination, Gov. John Kasich, a distant fourth in a two-man race, ended his long-shot bid.
Kasich made the announcement at a Wednesday press event in Columbus less than one day after vowing to remain in the race after another Trump victory, this time in Indiana. That Trump win led U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, second in the number of delegates but with no chance to win enough in the remaining primary states, also to withdraw.
Kasich made only one reference to his exit from the race, and that was at the end of his speech, shortly before he left without taking questions from reporters.
“I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me, as he does for everyone, and as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life,” he said.
Mahoning Valley Republican leaders said Trump needs to dial back his bombastic style and be more careful what he says now that he is the party’s presumptive presidential nominee.
“I’m backing him, but you’d wish he’d say things differently,” said Randy Law, Trumbull County Republican Party chairman. “I wish he’d word things a little better. It will get polished up, but not completely because that’s not who he is.”
Tracey Winbush, Mahoning County GOP vice chairwoman and the Ohio Republican Party treasurer, said Trump has “said some things during this primary that hurt people: the way he framed immigration, the way he framed women, how he has tweeted about people’s color.”
Winbush, a Kasich delegate, said Trump also accused leaders of political parties, such as her, of being “dirty” and trying to rig the process of selecting delegates.
“It’s time for him to mend fences and reunite the party,” she said.
Winbush said she will vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner and that party’s likely presidential nominee.
But she added: “It’s really kind of hard to back someone you don’t trust. He has to do things to earn people’s trust. He said a lot of things that were not true, and he knew it. If he wants me to support him, he has to earn my trust.”
Mahoning County Republican Party Chairman Mark Munroe, an alternate Kasich delegate, has said all along that he would back whoever the party chooses as its nominee.
“There is plenty of time to reintroduce him as a different candidate,” Munroe said of Trump. “It’s been a bar fight. It’s been ugly. It’s been nasty. It’s been hurtful. I think we’re going to see a different Donald Trump. I’m optimistic that Trump can move the electorate and win the election.”
Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras questioned how Winbush could be such a strong critic of Trump and not trust him but will vote for him anyway.
That Trump will be the Republican presidential nominee is terrifying, Betras said.
“We should be afraid of a populist who extols the virtues of violence and people applaud it,” he said. “That’s not America.”
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican running for re-election, “intends to support the Republican nominee,” said Corry Bliss, his campaign manager.
In response, Liz Margolis, spokeswoman for ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, Portman’s Democratic challenger, said Portman is “backing one of the most divisive, toxic and offensive presidential candidates in modern history.”
As for Kasich, Valley Republican officials said he couldn’t gain any traction against Trump.
Kasich struggled from the moment he kicked off his campaign in July 2015, barely qualifying to share the stage a month later as one of the top 10 Republican presidential candidates in the first debate in Cleveland.
Kasich spent much of his early campaign in New Hampshire with more than 100 town-hall meetings in that state. He finished a distant second to Trump, who didn’t focus much on that state.
Kasich’s lone win came March 15 in Ohio. While Trump finished in second place, he easily won Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Even with that win, Kasich remained in fourth place with 153 delegates behind Cruz’s 565 and even U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out after losing his home state of Florida on March 15 and has 172 delegates.
Trump has 1,053 of the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the GOP nomination, with 500-plus still up for grabs in coming weeks.
When it became obvious that Kasich wasn’t going to win another state, his campaign focused on stopping Trump from getting the 1,237 delegates needed to capture the party’s nomination and planned to emerge as the choice at a contested Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July.