WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan warned Republican Party officials on Thursday not to change the rules to allow someone other than Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz to grab the presidential nomination at the GOP convention.
“That would be just a huge mistake,” said Jordan, who heads the House Freedom Caucus of about three dozen conservatives. “It would be completely wrong, any type of rigging, or a perception that the party hierarchy is trying to influence and change things so that the two guys at the top are denied the nomination.”
Meanwhile, Ohio Gov. and Republican presidential candidate John Kasich continued to tout himself Thursday as the most electable person in the race, citing polls showing him beating Hillary Clinton while his two GOP rivals would lose to her.
“You win the primary and lose the general, what’s the point?” he said during an hourlong MSNBC town hall at Milleridge Inn Cottage in Jericho, New York. “What, do you hang a certificate on the wall?”
In an interview for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” program, Jordan said the results so far from the primary contests show that GOP voters want an anti-establishment candidate. He noted that Trump and Cruz have been gathering majorities between them, while Kasich lags behind.
“This outsider, anti-establishment mood is really, really strong, and I think that’s a reflection of why those two are the ones who are in first and second and Gov. Kasich, who I think has done a nice job as our governor, is a distant third,” said Jordan.
He has not made an endorsement in the race but plans to attend the July convention in Cleveland.
Jordan pointed specifically to talk of changing an existing convention rule precluding anyone who hasn’t won eight states from becoming the nominee. The rule as it stands would disqualify anyone other than Trump or Cruz, but that rule and others must be ratified anew by the convention’s Rules Committee.
“You start doing things like that, it certainly creates a perception that ‘Oh wait a minute, they’re trying to change it,’” Jordan said. “Even if it’s technically allowed then it does become potentially rigging the game.”
Jordan’s comments reflect the divide in the Republican Party that’s roiled the presidential race and continues to impede business in the House itself, where Freedom Caucus opposition is preventing Republican leaders from meeting a deadline today to pass a budget.
Kasich is running second to Trump in polling of Tuesday’s New York GOP primary.
Kasich says he is gaining support as voters know more about him. “The Trump voters are comfortable with me, and the more they know me, the more they like me, because I grew up more like them than Trump did,” he said, alluding to his blue-collar upbringing.
In a talk with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and in answering questions from several audience members, Kasich cast himself as he has throughout his campaign — as a less divisive candidate than his GOP opponents who is carrying “a message of hope.”
Kasich vowed to secure the border and prevent people from entering the country illegally. But he also called for a guest-worker program and, in comments at the town hall and at a brief news conference afterward, said the estimated 11 million people now in the country illegally should be given a path to legalization — not citizenship — if they don’t have criminal records and pay back taxes and perhaps fines.
“We’re not going to go yanking them out of their homes and deporting them,” he said.
Pressed by Matthews on how he’d deal with employers who hire immigrants in the country illegally as “cheap labor,” Kasich said the business owners should be fined — an approach now in the law but which some anti-illegal-immigration activists say isn’t as enforced as strongly as it should be.
“We’re going to have to hold them accountable,” he said.
Joanne Flood, a registered Republican from Rockville Centre, said she is voting for Kasich largely because of his experience as a congressman — he was a budget committee chairman — and as Ohio governor.
“He’s substantive and he seems to have a heart,” she said. “He cares about people and strikes a balance in what he does.”