We can all forget about John Kasich dropping out of the presidential race.
That’s what he told a crowd of supporters Wednesday.
Still, it hasn’t stopped political experts from speculating how long Kasich can cling to this race after weak showings in South Carolina and Nevada.
He has to have a strong showing in a few states Tuesday — Super Tuesday — when voters in 13 states cast ballots for the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.
“It's hard to imagine Kasich dropping out right now,” said David Niven, a University of Cincinnati political science professor. “What Kasich needs to keep going is some wins. He can't compete across the full breadth of Super Tuesday states, but he has to shine somewhere or his candidacy will be nothing more than an afterthought."
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges said Kasich has a chance to do well in Vermont, Virginia and Mississippi on Tuesday. In Vermont, Kasich is running TV ads and he will host two town halls in the state Monday, ahead of Super Tuesday.
The campaign is counting on a strong performance March 8 in Michigan and then a primary win in the Ohio primary a week later, Borges said.
“He’s staying in the race, absolutely,” Borges said of Kasich’s campaign. “The goal has always been to get this down to a two-man contest with Donald Trump. We have to get one reasonable, acceptable candidate back in the race.”
Kasich does have a shot at nabbing votes in northeastern states because of his second-place showing in New Hampshire earlier this month, Ohio State University political science professor Paul Beck said. Voters there are already familiar with the Kasich name because his campaign spent money running television ads throughout the Boston area to reach New Hampshire voters.
“He might do well in Massachusetts and Vermont,” Beck said. “If he doesn’t, he’s in trouble.”
A Boston radio poll released Friday shows Kasich tied for second place in the Massachusetts primary.
Meanwhile, he's likely to face pressure to drop out. Five GOP candidates remain in the race for president, so votes will continue to be fractured between multiple contenders. That could help ensure a Trump victory at the Republican National Convention in July.
Kasich has six delegates compared to Trump’s 82. A candidate needs 1,237 delegates to win the nomination at the convention.
Some of the GOP’s party leaders hope Marco Rubio can overtake Donald Trump ahead of the convention. In order to do that, he needs to capture all of the moderate GOP vote instead of splitting it with Kasich, experts said.
“There’s probably a lot of people in (Kasich's) ear, who are saying, ‘you need to get out,’” said Dan Birdsong, a political science lecturer at the University of Dayton.
If Kasich can’t do well in a few of Tuesday's contests, the party might get frustrated if he continues to stay in, said Christopher Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University.
Kasich’s bargaining power with the Republican Party will be highest from now through Tuesday, Kelley said. If he clings on longer – and continues to split the party’s votes and delegates – he might begin to anger some of the party’s insiders.
“The longer (Kasich) stays in and inflicts damage on Marco Rubio and becomes the man who, in part, gives us Donald Trump … then his political buying power with the party goes down," Kelley said.
Kelley doesn’t believe Kasich has a viable path to win the party’s nomination. Kasich might be holding out for a good offer from the Republican Party before bowing out, he said.
“He’s doing a wait-and-see,” Kelley said. “What can the Republican Party or people who are vested within the Republican party do for me that will make my life as post-governor as cushy as possible?”
But Borges, who supports the Ohio governor, said it's unlikely Rubio would get more support if Kasich drops out.
"The Rubio campaign and the establishment elites want their guy," Borges said. "They're pushing their narrative that isn't true: that John's voters would somehow magically go to Marco Rubio. I think (the voters) would go to Donald Trump."
How long Kasich can hold on also depends on how much cash he has on hand.
His campaign had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of January, which is low enough to question his campaign's liquidity.
He will eventually need more money to keep on the campaign trail, Beck said. And, if he continues to perform poorly in primary states, donors might wonder if they're getting a good return on their investment, Beck said.
“If he doesn’t do well between now and March, I think the money would just dry up,” Beck said. “He may be able to get to Ohio before that happens.”
The Kasich campaign got a cash boost after the New Hampshire primary results, where Kasich took second, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush dropped from the race, Borges said.
Just how big of a boost, however, won’t be clear until the campaign files its February campaign finance report next week.
But Borges contends it’s enough for Kasich to trek on.
“He’s had quite a bit of support arrive at his doorstep,” Borges said. “I’m confident he’ll have the funds to run an appropriate campaign.”