"As a new poll out today shows, Wisconsin is a competitive state," said campaign spokesman Chris Schrimpf. "In certain Congressional Districts, Gov. Kasich is best positioned to finish ahead of Donald Trump. Like any good campaign, we are regularly allocating and reallocating media in a dynamic atmosphere. We are increasing our buys in some Congressional Districts in Wisconsin and reallocating in some others."
That could be read as an admission that Kasich was playing for delegates, but not a statewide win. Like Spinal Tap's, his support was selective, and he was adjusting. Half of Wisconsin's 42 delegates are assigned to whoever wins the popular vote statewide. The rest are assigned to the winner in each of eight congressional districts. Kasich was turning his focus away from the districts around Milwaukee, where talk radio (exemplified by Sykes) is arguing for Cruz as the best anti-Trump candidate, and toward the 2nd, 3rd and 7th districts, where rural and college-town Democrats might back Kasich.
The governor just happened to do this as he stumped in the 2nd and 3rd districts, finishing the day in the liberal bastion of Madison. (He campaigns in Waukesha, part of the area where the ads had gone down, on Tuesday.) Before that, talking to reporters in West Salem, he suggested that his 11-point victory in Ohio had not gotten enough attention ("that's a little bit of whining") and that the ad moves needn't be overblown.
"It doesn’t mean anything," Kasich said. "We put our resources where we think we have the best chance, and that’s all this means. We’re not running out of money or anything like that, but we’re not going to spend money in places where we think the results won’t be great."
Asked about the chance of Cruz making similar strategic punts in the coming April 19 and 26 contests, where Kasich has said he is clearly strongest, Kasich dismissed it as "campaign process stuff."
"I don’t really get in the middle of that," said Kasich, having previously said that he was the best hope to stop Trump in those states. "I’m having too much fun out here now."
In Madison, Kasich's substantive message got a full hearing. So did the process stuff.
"Since [Kasich] is the only candidate that definitely will win," said former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, Kasich's highest-profile endorser here, "a vote for Donald Trump and Sen. Cruz is a vote for Hillary Clinton."
In an interview late last week, Thompson also spun the news that could upend the campaign Tuesday — Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) expected endorsement of Cruz, as the best stop-Trump candidate for the April 5 primary.
"I’m sure Ted Cruz is going to help him pay off his campaign debt, and I think he wants to be a player in Ted Cruz’s campaign," said Thompson. "I can understand where the governor is coming from. I don’t think it’s going to mean much."