Alex Conant is Marco Rubio's presidential campaign communications director
He said Rubio's primary rival Gov. John Kasich is the best positioned to beat Donald Trump in Ohio
Marco Rubio’s communications director said Friday that GOP primary rival Gov. John Kasich is the best candidate for Republicans who want to defeat Donald Trump in the governor’s home state of Ohio.
“If you are a Republican primary voter in Ohio and you want to defeat Donald Trump, your best chance in Ohio is John Kasich,” Alex Conant told CNN’s “At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan,” adding Rubio was the best candidate to beat Trump in Florida.
When asked specifically if he was telling Rubio supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich, Conant responded, “Yeah, my answer is John Kasich is the one candidate in Ohio that can beat Donald Trump. That’s stating the obvious. So … if you’re a Republican primary voter in Ohio, and you don’t want Donald Trump to be the nominee, John Kasich is your best bet.”
While not entirely surprising, Conant’s comments show that efforts to stop Trump, which had been relatively muted during Thursday’s CNN debate, had not completely evaporated. Asked for comment, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski told CNN, “(Rubio) is losing badly in Ohio and Florida. What else can he say?”
Rubio gave a slightly less forward message after Conant’s comments when he was asked about them at event in Naples.
“I’ve never talked to John Kasich about this. Clearly John Kasich has a better chance of winning in Ohio and if a voter concludes that that’s the best chance to beat Donald Trump, in Ohio, then they will do that,” Rubio said.
The Florida senator emphasized there had not been a discussion between him and Kasich about stopping Trump’s rise.
“This is stuff from ‘House of Cards,’ it’s not real life,” Rubio said.
Rubio stood by his own campaign at the same event, repeating Conant’s argument that Rubio is best positioned to win Florida.
“A vote for Ted Cruz and a vote for John Kasich in Florida is a vote for Donald Trump,” Rubio said.
Kasich campaign spokesperson Trent Duffy would not elaborate on Conant’s statement.
“We welcome the support of the Rubio campaign,” Duffy told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield. “Voters should not be told what to do. Voters need to vote with their conscious.
Both Florida and Ohio vote next Tuesday.
According to CNN’s Poll of Polls released Friday, Trump led in both Ohio and Florida, with Kasich and Rubio his closest competitor in each state respectively. However, Kasich was only behind Trump by 2 percentage points, while Rubio is 14 percentage points behind the brash billionaire.
CNN’s Jim Acosta contributed to this report.