It was around 9 p.m. on a primary night, and, lately, you know what that means: time for Donald Trump to call a press conference at his gilt-ridden Mar-a-Lago resort compound—and for networks to preempt all their other primary night programming to cover it. On so-called Super Saturday, March 5, as well as last Tuesday, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were having races called for and against them—meaning actual news was breaking—but the cameras stayed on Trump (the crawl below was left to announce new developments). Tonight, I found myself wondering if networks might break into Trump’s “press conference,” if and when Senator Marco Rubio dropped out. But not to worry: Rubio announced he was suspending his campaign—in a bizarre, self-congratulatory, and self-contradictory speech—more than an hour before Trump took his stage.
Once again, Trump won the big delegate haul. But once again, the hopes and dreams of the erstwhile GOP establishment hang on another man. This time, it’s Governor John Kasich, who won his home state of Ohio. Back in the day, winning your home state was next to meaningless, unless it came alongside other victories. In Trump’s GOP, it makes you the only game in town.
Rubio, of course, lost his home state of Florida badly, and thus came out early to bring his campaign to an end, long before Trump could belittle him again. He might have won one heavily Cuban precinct in Florida, networks said. His goodbye speech was rambling, occasionally moving, and mostly clueless. He blamed the GOP establishment for the rise of Trump—the same establishment that fought so hard for him, throwing an estimated $13 million in Florida against Trump in the last month without even mussing Trump’s Cheeto-coated hair. Rubio told a moving story of his grandparents going hungry so his parents could eat, which helped me finally understand why his tax plan cut capital gains to zero. Oh, wait. No, it didn’t.
Kasich’s win, though, has newly emboldened the anti-Trump forces. MSNBC’s Steve Schmidt, who ran John McCain’s losing campaign, insisted Kasich would now become the repository of the hopes and dreams of decent Republicans, who know deep in their hearts that Kasich is the only one who can defeat Hillary Clinton.
For his part, Kasich took the stage and delivered his oddball combination of winning and weird. He told of warning supporters not to cheer for him in at a restaurant Tuesday afternoon. “Please don’t do that, because you’re going to make me cry.” He reminisced about having to grovel before credit agencies back when Ohio’s economy was in the pits—before President Obama’s auto restructuring took effect, for one thing—and then cutting taxes to right the ship. Now, he insisted, “We are leaving no one behind: not the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the poor.” And also: “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land.”
Then he went off the rails and gave oddly condescending, patriarchal advice. The man who bragged of bringing female supporters “out of their kitchens” sounded like a wandering refugee from the 1950s: “If we’re a schoolteacher, we give up money to change lives. If we’re a nurse, we work 15 extra minutes, when we’re dead on our feet, because we want to assure a family that things are going to be OK. And if we are a neighbor—that means that widow, who was married for 50 years, who no one calls anymore, you want to change the world, you take her to dinner on Saturday night. She’ll wear that dress she hasn’t worn in six months; I trust you to do it.”