MILWAUKEE (AP) — Donald Trump on Sunday called for John Kasich to drop out of the Republican presidential race, arguing that the Ohio governor shouldn’t be allowed to continue accumulating delegates if he has no chance of becoming the nominee.
Working to recover his edge after a difficult week, Trump said it wasn’t fair for Kasich, who has won only his home state, to continue his campaign. He suggested instead that Kasich, who has pledged to make it to the summer convention, follow the example of Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush — candidates who quit after lagging behind.
“He doesn’t have to run and take my votes,” he said.
Trump said Kasich could ask to be considered at the GOP convention in Cleveland in July even without competing in the remaining nominating contests. He added that he had relayed his concerns to Republican National Committee officials at a meeting in Washington this past week.
“I said, ‘Why is a guy allowed to run?’ All he’s doing is just he goes from place to place and loses,” Trump told reporters at Miss Katie’s Diner in Milwaukee, where he stopped for breakfast. The state holds its presidential primaries Tuesday.
Kasich’s campaign tried to flip the script, contending that neither Trump nor Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would have enough delegates to win the nomination outright going into the Cleveland.
“Since he thinks it’s such a good idea, we look forward to Trump dropping out before the convention,” said Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that she had yet to receive a request from the FBI for an interview regarding the private email system she used as secretary of state. And during a series of stops at Brooklyn church services, she got in a dig at her Democratic opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has identified as an independent for most of his career.
“I know we have to have a Democrat succeed Barack Obama,” Clinton said.
Clinton and Sanders announced they’d agreed to a debate in New York before the consequential April 19 primary, though the timing remained unclear. Sanders fired up a crowd in Wausau, Wisconsin, hoping to continue his string of recent campaign victories even as Clinton maintains a sizable delegate lead.
Trump’s call for Kasich to bow out came as Republican concerns grew about the prospect of convention chaos if Trump fails to lock up his party’s nomination — or even if he does.
Behind Cruz in the polls in Wisconsin, Trump faces the prospect that a loss Tuesday will raise further doubts that he can net the needed delegates, making it far easier for his party to oust him in a floor fight at the convention.
Cruz, Trump’s closest challenger, has only a small chance to overtake him in the delegate hunt before the convention. He spent his afternoon rallying supporters in Wisconsin in an event heavy with references to the state’s beloved Green Bay Packers.
Kasich has acknowledged he cannot catch up in the delegate race, leaving a contested convention his only path to victory. He has faced calls in the past to step aside, but those nudges became less frequent following his decisive victory last month in his home state.
Still, Kasich suggested that a contested convention would not involve the chaos that party leaders fear.
“Kids will spend less time focusing on Bieber and Kardashian and more time focusing on how we elect presidents,” Kasich told ABC. “It will be so cool.”
Republicans fear an unseemly internal fight would damage the party in November’s general election, and Trump isn’t ruling out the possibility of running as an independent if he’s not the nominee, making it that much harder for the GOP to retake the White House.
Such talk has “consequences,” said GOP Chairman Reince Priebus, though he tried to quell the prospect of a convention fight. He told ABC that the process will be clear and open, with cameras there “at every step of the way.”
Frustration with the GOP field has stoked calls in some Republican corners for the party to use a contested convention to pick someone not even on the ballot. Priebus acknowledged that was a remote possibility, but said he believed his party’s candidate would be “someone who’s running.”
Working to right his campaign after a rough patch, Trump has found himself on the defensive, struggling to explain away controversies over abortion, nuclear weapons and his campaign manager.
“Was this my best week? I guess not,” Trump said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Yet as he campaigned in Milwaukee, Trump returned to the confident bravado his supporters have come to expect. He said the state of play in Wisconsin “reminds me so much of New Hampshire, where we had this massive victory and it wasn’t really anticipated.” In reality, Trump had led polls for months in New Hampshire and was widely expected to win.
“I think this has the feel of a victory,” he told reporters, as a plate of untouched fried eggs and bacon grew cold.
In Egypt, former Trump rival and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tried to reassure an Arab world wary of Trump, who has called for banning Muslim immigration to the United States.
“The Congress is going to be around no matter who is president,” Graham said after meeting with Egypt’s leader.
On the delegate front, North Dakota Republicans at their state convention selected 25 of their 28 national delegates on Sunday. North Dakota isn’t holding a primary or caucus in the 2016 race. Nevada Democrats held county conventions on Saturday, leading up to a final determination of delegates at a statewide convention in May. Clinton turned backed a challenge from Sanders in the state’s caucuses in February.
Lederman reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Lisa Lerer in New York, Scott Bauer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Todd Richmond in Wausau, Wisconsin, contributed to this report.