Kasich is indicating that he has little intention to change his approach, maintaining his close ties to John Weaver, the man who oversaw his 2016 campaign.
“I suspect he doesn’t know yet,” Weaver told CNBC.com, when asked about Kasich’s presidential plans. “The day we got off the plane after he pulled out [out of the race], it was a 1 or 2 percent chance he would ever do it again. But I would say the chance has gone up, because of how outrageous Trump is.”
Kasich’s road to the White House, aides say, is predicated on how Republican primary voters would respond to a shellacking this fall, and whether they would actively seek to broaden the party’s tent next cycle. It could also come down to the precise specifics of how 2016 unfolds, particularly in Kasich’s home state, a key presidential battleground.
But for the moment — however long that moment lasts — his campaign is feeling justified for keeping its powder dry in the waning days of the primary race, resisting the calls to go nuclear against Trump.
“He was widely criticized for [that approach] by some,” Weaver said. “Many of those people have come back and apologized to us. No one who has gotten involved with Donald Trump has come back from that relationship unscathed, so the fact he did what he did is looking mighty smart.”
The Kasich campaign had, for a while, indicated that it would take its fight to the bitter end, the convention floor if necessary, until the candidate abruptly called it quits on May 4, just before boarding a plane to campaign in Washington, D.C.
Kasich smirks over Cruz
Davis sees similarities between Kasich this election and McCain in 2000, after he lost a bitter primary race against George W. Bush.
“He wasn’t interested in helping Bush,” Davis recalled, “but he wanted to show his Republican bona fides. He helped us hold the House and with his help we over-performed.”
Since ending his campaign, Kasich has made nice with some of his former foes: He sent out a campaign fundraising email on behalf of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and did an in-person fundraiser for Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Kasich aides say that while his focus will be campaigning in swing districts, he will also make his way to stump for Republicans in Texas. The campaign did not specify who those GOPers would be, but it appears one can be ruled out.
When CNBC.com asked him whether his beneficence may extend to Cruz, who is up for re-election to the Senate during the midterms, Kasich couldn’t help but smirk.
“Ted Cruz?” he laughed. “What’s he running for?”