Many Republicans are urging John Kasich to drop out of the race in order to consolidate the "anti-Trump" vote behind Marco Rubio. These Republican pundits should reconsider. There are a number of reasons to believe that Kasich is better equipped to consolidate the anti-Trump vote than Rubio.
For the record, it must be acknowledged that Kasich tends to rub conservatives the wrong way. He has unapologetically defended his decision to expand Medicaid. He also told social conservatives that the gay marriage fight is over and it is time to move on. At the same time, people perceive Rubio as rock-solid on everything except immigration. The reality is a little different.
On gay marriage, the only difference between Rubio and Kasich is rhetorical. Rubio has explicitly stated that gay marriage is the law of the land; however, he did so in a more tactful way than Kasich. To use a Trumpism, Rubio "took out the lumps."
Social conservatives don't want to hear this, but it is time to move on. There is no plausible way that the courts will ever consider this issue again; traditional marriage could only be restored through a constitutional amendment. More importantly, most Americans now support same sex marriage, which makes the possibility of passing such an amendment less than zero.
On Medicaid expansion, the public supports Kasich's position, not Marco Rubio's. Rubio's platform calls for limiting entitlement spending (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), while at the same time eliminating the inheritance tax and the capital gains tax. These are not positions that will convert blue-collar Trump supporters.
On immigration, Kasich supports legalization but not citizenship, this places him to the right of Marco Rubio. Due to his involvement with the so-called "gang of eight," Marco Rubio will never be fully acceptable to party conservatives. This is an even bigger liability with conservatives than Medicaid expansion.
Kasich has a massive edge in terms of experience over either Rubio or Trump. The Trump/Christie tag-team has successfully attacked Rubio as inexperienced, and unready to be president. This would be impossible with Kasich. I also suspect that Trump would have a harder time bullying Kasich then he does Rubio and Cruz.
Kasich's white working-class roots, along with his economically moderate policies, give him a greater ability to eat into Trumps support than either Rubio or Cruz. Trump supporters will instinctively trust Kasich more than Rubio or Cruz, and they will find his economic message more appealing.
Also, Kasich is a better general election candidate, who lacks the ideological baggage that Rubio and Cruz have. In 2014, Kasich swept every county in Ohio except two. Much as it annoys conservatives, Kasich's passionate defense of Medicaid expansion will reassure swing voters that he isn't a libertarian purist who fantasizes about eliminating Medicare and social security.
While I think Kasich is better equipped to beat Trump in a one on one, I realize that one of them needs to drop out very soon. I would support either Rubio or Cruz over the mystery box that is Donald Trump, but I'm skeptical that they have the chops to take down the Donald in a one on one race. If the anti-Trump forces are going to pick a candidate, they need to choose wisely.