Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) won his home state's primary Tuesday, fending off a challenge from businessman Donald Trump to notch his first victory of the 2016 election cycle.
Kasich's campaign had considered the state a must-win to remain relevant in what increasingly looks like a two-man contest between Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
"I'm going to win Ohio. And that's what creates a whole new race," Kasich said in February on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The anti-establishment sentiment that has roiled much of the campaign took a back seat in Ohio to Kasich's home-state popularity. Polls gave him an approval rating of about 80 percent among Republican voters, a majority of whom also described the state's economy as good.
Kasich also benefited from the support of the Ohio Republican Party, which endorsed him after more than 60 years of remaining neutral in primaries and organized get-out-the-vote efforts on his behalf. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, campaigned with Kasich on Monday as part of his effort to oppose Trump's candidacy.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), lagging badly in state polls, last week asked his Ohio supporters to vote for Kasich instead of him, a gesture that Kasich's campaign rebuffed. "We were going to win in Ohio without his help, just as he's going to lose in Florida without ours,” Kasich campaign spokesman Rob Nichols told reporters.
Ohio's primary was especially key due to GOP leaders' decision last year to make the state's 66 delegates winner-take-all. Kasich's win makes it more difficult for Trump to secure a majority of delegates outright.
Kasich's prospects, though, still hinge on whether he can travel the difficult path to a contested convention and win it.
"The plan is to win Ohio, and some other states," campaign strategist John Weaver told Reuters earlier this week. "If that happens, nobody is going to have enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot."