Ohio Governor and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich speaks at a rally in Columbus, Ohio, March 6, 2016.
Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

Rivals turn their fire on Kasich as the governor gains strength

At various times over the course of the Republican presidential race, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio have faced some pretty harsh criticism from one another. John Kasich, who’s finished in fifth place or lower in 10 states thus far, has had the luxury of being largely left alone.
But not anymore. The Ohio governor finished ahead of Rubio in two of this week’s four nominating contests; Kasich has climbed into third place in the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll; and the latest state-based polling suggests Kasich, unlike Rubio, is actually well positioned to win his home state next week.
The Washington Post reports that Team Rubio apparently feels it has no choice but to go into attack mode.
In a clear sign that it views Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a rising threat, a super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential candidacy is launching a major advertising blitz to puncture Kasich in two states holding contests next Tuesday.
The group, Conservative Solutions PAC, on Wednesday purchased $1 million in television ad time here in Florida and $268,000 in Illinois for spots opposing Kasich, according to two sources who track media buys.
The commercial, among other things, blasts the governor for embracing Medicaid expansion and bringing health coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Ohioans.
Even Trump, probably hoping to knock Kasich out of the race next week, took on the governor at an event yesterday, twice calling Kasich an “absentee” governor.
To be sure, by 2016 standards, “absentee” governor is a very mild rebuke, but the point is Trump hasn’t felt much of a need to criticize the Ohioan at all.
This isn’t completely new. Shortly before the New Hampshire primary, where Kasich finished second, super PACs affiliated with Jeb Bush and Chris Christie also took aim at the governor, with little effect.
But with Team Rubio and Kasich also on the offensive, Kasich appears to have reached a new stage of relevance. Congrats, governor, with the pressure on and the race entering the home stretch, you’re doing well enough to be attacked.