Of the 17 candidates who ran for the Republican nomination, perhaps only two can honestly say they ran the races they intended to run. Donald Trump, the victor, is certainly one of them. John Kasich's aides argue that he's the other.
Following his unceremonious departure from the presidential primary in May, the Ohio Republican governor is carrying forward with a sense of vindication, embracing his new role as the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" for vulnerable swing-state Republicans.
On Thursday, that found Kasich in Chicago, helping to raise money for Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who is in a tough re-election fight against Democrat Tammy Duckworth. After appearing at a fundraiser, Kasich joined Kirk on a tour of 1871, a non-profit incubator for tech start-ups — the perfect photo op.
At every turn, the Ohio governor is making sure to show America he's looking toward the future.
That future looks past Trump and athwart Ted Cruz, who has his own designs on consolidating the GOP in the potential wake of another presidential loss, as post-convention polls indicate is a likelihood. Going forward, Kasich is indicating that he has little intention to change his approach, maintaining his close ties to John Weaver, the man who oversaw his 2016 campaign.
"I suspect he doesn't know yet," Weaver told CNBC.com, when asked about Kasich's presidential plans. "The day we got off the plane after he pulled out [out of the race], it was a 1 or 2 percent chance he would ever do it again. But I would say the chance has gone up, because of how outrageous Trump is."
Kasich's road to the White House, aides say, is predicated on how Republican primary voters would respond to a shellacking this fall, and whether they would actively seek to broaden the party's tent next cycle. It could also come down to the precise specifics of how 2016 unfolds, particularly in Kasich's home state, a key presidential battleground.
But for the moment — however long that moment lasts — his campaign is feeling justified for keeping its powder dry in the waning days of the primary race, resisting the calls to go nuclear against Trump.
"He was widely criticized for [that approach] by some," Weaver said. "Many of those people have come back and apologized to us. No one who has gotten involved with Donald Trump has come back from that relationship unscathed, so the fact he did what he did is looking mighty smart."
The Kasich campaign had, for a while, indicated that it would take its fight to the bitter end, the convention floor if necessary, until the candidate abruptly called it quits on May 4, just before boarding a plane to campaign in Washington, D.C.