Rep. Todd Rokita: Loyalty to Trump demands shooting down Kasich 2020 talk

February 24, 2018 GMT

John Kasich has become a campaign issue in Indiana, where Rep. Todd Rokita is calling one of his rivals for the GOP nomination of the U.S. Senate to condemn the Ohio governor for contemplating a primary challenge against President Trump in 2020.

Loyalty to Mr. Trump has become central to the Republican primary battle between Mr. Rokita, Rep. Luke Messer and former State Rep. Mike Braun.

Mr. Rokita has aggressively sought to sow doubt about Mr. Messer’s adherence to Trumpism by highlighting remarks he has made in the past, including his suggestion during the 2016 campaign that the party might have to find a “white knight” candidate if the GOP candidates fail to collect the majority of delegates needed to seal up the nomination before the Republican National Convention.

“Because of never-Trump Republicans like Luke Messer, who floated a ‘white knight’ candidate to steal the nomination from Trump at the convention, RINOs like John Kasich feel empowered to attack President Trump,” said Rokita spokesperson Nathan Brand. “Hoosiers will send a pro-Trump Republican to defeat Donnelly, not a never-Trumper like Luke Messer.”

The Messer campaign has pointed out that he voted for Mr. Trump in the primary and in the general election and continues to support the “America First” agenda on Capitol Hill, including by heeding the president’s recent push to pass a two-year spending bill that increased spending by roughly $300 billion.

The Messer campaign also has said Rokita’s line of attack smacks of desperation.

A running “Trump Score” tally on the FiveThirtyEight website shows Mr. Messer has supported Mr. Trump 92.4 percent and Mr. Rokita has backed him 91 percent of the time.

Since losing the nomination to Mr. Trump, Mr. Kasich has been one of the most high-profile GOP critics of Mr. Trump and angered the president’s backers by leaving the door open to presidential bid in 2020.

In the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Rokita endorsed Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mr. Messer endorsed former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

They both, however, ended up voted for Mr. Trump because their top picks for the nomination had dropped out of the race before the Indiana primary.

Mr. Trump won Indiana, defeating Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas by 16 percentage points, and Mr. Kasich by 46 percentage points.