Just 13 Minutes Stand Between Kasich and the Pennsylvania Ballot — but His Team Isn’t Too Concerned

Only 13 minutes and 802 potentially ineligible signatures stand between Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the GOP primary ballot in Pennsylvania, but his campaign doesn’t seem to be all that worried.

The “goofy, silly suit against us” — as Kasich’s communications director Rob Nichols called it — all began when Nathaniel Rome, a 23-year-old University of Pennsylvania student and chairman of a student group that supports Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for president, filed a petition in court at the end of February. Rome contended that Kasich fell short of the 2,000 signatures needed to be added to the state’s ballot.

According to the suit filed in the Commonwealth Court, 802 signatories submitted by the GOP presidential candidate are ineligible, brining Kasich’s 2,184 signatures submitted below the threshold.

While Nichols seemingly isn’t batting an eye at the lawsuit, Kasich’s appearance on the statewide ballot hinges on an all-important 13 minutes.

Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop on Monday, March 14, 2016, at the MAPS Air Museum in North Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop on Monday, March 14, 2016, at the MAPS Air Museum in North Canton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Rome’s petition was filed at 5:13 p.m. on Feb. 23 — the final day to file objections to nominating petitions, according to Pennsylvania law. Yet according to Kasich’s legal team, that’s 13 minutes too late. What’s at issue here is whether the end of the day means 5 p.m. or 11:59 p.m.

Lawyers argued either side in court last week but Judge Bonnie Leadbetter, who presided over the matter, said the case was “a matter of significance” as Kasich was running for president and sent the case to a three-judge panel. Both sides were required to file new briefs by Monday and Wednesday. 

Despite the extra week, Nichols told TheBlaze he was confident the judges would “decide in our favor.” Rome could not be reached for comment.

“We will be on the ballot in Pennsylvania,” Nichols said. “What’s not clear is if Sen. Rubio will even be a presidential candidate at that point, so then what becomes of it?”

Both Kasich and Rubio face tough contests in their home states Tuesday — both in winner-take-all situations. Last week, Rubio’s camp implored voters who wanted to stop GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump to vote for Rubio in Florida and Kasich in Ohio, arguing that each candidate had the better shot in their home state to take votes — and coveted delegates — away from the billionaire businessman.

“I told [the Rubio campaign] in the spirit of last week’s new cooperative, kumbaya, work-together directive on Friday that they should immediately withdraw the suit and stop attacking us with their Super PAC,” Nichols said.

Kasich’s campaign has also been critical of Trump who, unsurprisingly, has taken to Twitter to allege that the Ohio governor will not make it onto the Pennsylvania ballot.

“Trump is lying to Ohioans, and we are consulting with our lawyers on our next steps,” Nichols said.

“Trump’s dishonest tweets and robocalls means his team either knows nothing about Pennsylvania election law, or he’s just scared to death we’re going to beat him,” he continued. “Donald Trump continues to play gutter politics. America deserves better, and he owes Ohioans an apology for lying to them.” 

According to Real Clear Politics’ aggregated polling data, Trump is ahead in Pennsylvania by an average of 10 points. There are 71 total delegates at stake in the Keystone State on April 26; at-large delegates will be awarded in a winner-take-all fashion whereas congressional district delegates who are elected on the primary ballot are officially unbound.

And while Nichols and the Kasich camp have outwardly been overwhelmingly positive, CNN reported that his advisors have privately been more resigned as they acknowledge that it really is entirely up to the court. There is the possibility that the case could go all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

Nichols’ confidence extended beyond whether or not his boss will make it onto the ballot in Pennsylvania. When asked about the critical Ohio primary, he responded matter-of-factly, “We’re going to win.”

Follow Kaitlyn Schallhorn (@K_Schallhorn) on Twitter