In Florida, Republicans poured out of their nursing homes to vote for Donald Trump. In North Carolina, where the mills went overseas, angry voters picked the billionaire. In Illinois and in Missouri, they looked to Trump and Trump again.
Only in Ohio—which picked the last three GOP nominees—did the tide turn, as Republican voters picked their own governor, John Kasich, to lead the party ticket in November.
And so, even as Trump took another large step toward securing the Republican nomination, the Buckeye state may play a crucial role in ensuring that he can’t win it outright. And Ohio isn’t done with the Republican party yet.
Denying Trump the state’s 66 delegates—5% of the 1,237 needed for the nomination—could end up being the difference between a Trump coronation and a contested convention in Cleveland, Ohio, this summer.
For now, with Florida senator Marco Rubio folding after an ignominious home-state defeat, it comes down to Trump, Kasich and Texas senator Ted Cruz.
Kasich’s chance of winning enough delegates to secure the nomination outright are astronomical—he’d need to win 80% of the remaining delegates, and so far his moderate campaign has played better with the media than with the voters. But he is likely to present a more attractive face to the Republican establishment, and its fundraisers, than Cruz.
Cruz’s campaign believes he still has a path to outright victory, but it depends on Kasich dropping out, and the Texas senator would still have to win nearly 70% of the remaining delegates. He is less likely to attract the support of Republican big-wigs, but they may conclude that he represents their only option to beat Trump.
But if Cruz and Kasich both stay in the race, they are on track to block Trump from a majority.
If no candidate for the nomination can earn a majority of delegates in the party’s votes and caucuses, then Republican delegates will battle through however many rounds of voting are needed to come to a consensus on a nominee. It could be one of the candidates, or a surprise choice like former nominee Mitt Romney or House speaker Paul Ryan.
“I believe with all my heart that the winner of the Florida primary next Tuesday will be the nominee of the Republican party,” Rubio had said just last week. Now he clearly hopes that he will be proven wrong.