COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A super PAC backing Ohio Gov. John Kasich took its case for his presidential nomination directly to delegates this week in an unusual web ad.
New Day for America’s 60-second spot, entitled “Convention,” features footage of confetti falling on Kasich that makes it appear as if he has already won the Republican nod. Kasich is actually running third among the three GOP contenders left in the race — and he still has earned fewer delegates than Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out weeks ago.
Looking like a Ken Burns-style retrospective, the spot’s voiceover reports the Republican nomination “goes to John Kasich!” as he and his family wave to a crowd at what was actually his announcement speech back in July. The historian-narrator, seeming to speak to future generations, tells viewers why delegates threw their support behind the Ohio governor: “They nominated the only candidate who could win the only election that mattered. The candidate who was presidential. John Kasich.”
Connie Wehrkamp, the PAC’s spokeswoman, said the ad is “pretty straightforward.”
“Obviously delegates play an important role in the nomination process and this web ad is part of a long-term delegate outreach strategy that will continue through an open convention,” she said. “Ensuring delegates understand John Kasich is the only Republican who can win in November, while Trump and Cruz would both lose to Hillary and cost us countless down ticket races in the process, is key piece of our outreach.”
The ad was released Tuesday morning, hours before voting tallies showed billionaire Donald Trump sweeping the five state primaries held that day. Trump labeled himself the “presumptive nominee” in that night’s victory speech.
John Green, director of the University of Akron’s Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said Kasich’s backers have two reasons for taking the historical retrospective approach. One is to justify Kasich’s continued candidacy.
The other is “to influence the debate over the role of the convention as an independent decision-making event,” he said. “Here the key phrase is ‘the only election that matters,’ namely the general election.” Kasich’s campaign has emphasized polls that show him with the strongest chance of beating Hillary Clinton if she is the Democrats’ nominee this fall.
Green said the effort has the potential to backfire.
“‘Delegates’ are technically representatives of the voters, especially in primary states — so going against the voters’ wishes could be problematic,” he said in an email. “But it will be less so if no candidate wins on the first ballot and if the party is deadlocked after several ballots.”