But Kasich has not yet reached that point, signaling in recent interviews that he wants to see improvement in Trump’s temperament. “I don’t like when he’s attacking and putting people down,” Kasich told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in May interview. “I’ve made it clear that I need to see a positive approach. And, you know, if there’s one not forthcoming, you know, it’s gonna be a real problem for me to endorse.” By June, he still hadn’t seen what he wanted to see, telling MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough “either there’s going to be dramatic change, or I can’t find my way there.” In the meantime, Kasich is keeping his delegates to himself, too.
Kasich has the profile of someone who should have great influence: a popular sitting governor of a swing state that’s a must-win in November. But his sway over his party and its nominee is questionable—not only because he lost the primary badly, winning only Ohio, but because voices like his aren’t in fashion. He was frank during the primaries, as he always has been, but not as frank as Trump. He was establishment in the year of the outsider. And his carefully crafted public image—that of a happy warrior—didn’t land when all voters wanted was anger. Kasich is the one who has really changed, from a budget-hawk congressman of the Gingrich era, unafraid to start a fight, to a putatively moderate presidential candidate with a can’t-we-all-just-get-along demeanor.
Unfortunately for Kasich, his party’s nominee has shown no signs he’s willing to take similar steps, even if Trump allies have privately lobbied Kasich's team, as CNN reported this week. He has asked for Kasich’s support, and even said he would vet Kasich for the vice presidency, but he has shown no indication that he’s receptive to the governor’s guidance. Trump “hasn’t responded well to what others perceived as leverage so far,” Tom Ingram, a former Kasich campaign adviser and seasoned Republican operative, told me. “He’s kind of out-Trumped them.”
Kasich does have means of persuading his delegates to vote one way or another. In late May, a few weeks after suspending his campaign, the governor told his 161 delegates they would be bound to him through the convention. He won 66 of those delegates in his home state of Ohio, the only state that gave him a victory this primary season. Other delegates were picked up along the way in 15 other states and in Washington, D.C. At the time of his directive, an anonymous Kasich aide told The Washington Post the governor thought it was a savvy move in this crazy election year, and believed his delegates could be used to convince Trump to change his ways. An aide told a local politics reporter in Cleveland the same. He wasn’t the only 2016 candidate to hold onto delegates: Florida Senator Marco Rubio wouldn’t release his at first, before changing his mind. And Texas Senator Ted Cruz has reserved some of his delegates, possibly as a way to exert influence over the party platform.