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Why one California entreprepreneur saw Silicon Valley as 'Kasich country'

The former California gubernatorial candidate says Kasich's economic policies will connect with Bay Area GOP primary voters.

Alex Wong/Getty Imaes

Steve Poizner will tell you — in fairly specific detail — why backing John Kasich in the California Republican presidential primary is not a lost cause, despite polls showing a certain boisterous billionaire trouncing his GOP rival in the Golden State.

“Everyone understands it’s an uphill battle, but it’s a noble cause,” said Poizner, a tech entrepreneur and former California gubernatorial candidate. “I so believe in Governor Kasich’s leadership that I’m going to continue to fight until it’s over.”

Update: Apparently, that time has now come. NBC News reports that Kasich is ending his bid for the White House after finishing a distant third in the Indiana Republican primary. The Ohio governor plans to make the official announcement in his home state.

Republican front-runner Donald Trump looked as though he would clinch the nomination with the June 7 primaries, in which California is the biggest prize of the five remaining states casting ballots.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign after Trump’s resounding victory Tuesday in Indiana, saying he sees no viable path to victory. But Kasich said he’s committed to staying in the race in hopes of denying the real estate mogul and reality TV star the 1,237 delegates needed to secure the party’s nomination on the first ballot.

“If Mr. Trump does not get to 1,237 and if it goes to an open convention, then anything can happen,” said Poizner, who serves as the Kasich campaign’s national co-chair.

Poizner notes Abraham Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot in 1860. The most recent contested GOP convention was in 1976, when a former California Governor named Ronald Reagan was challenging a sitting Republican president, Gerald Ford. Ford emerged with the nomination in the first ballot.

That seems like an improbable outcome. Nonetheless, California — and, in particular, Silicon Valley — is Kasich’s last stand.

Poizner says the Bay Area is “Kasich country,” a place where Republican primary voters will appreciate the candidate’s conservative economic policies and his track record in Ohio, where, as governor, he turned around a troubled state that was hemorrhaging jobs and had a yawning budget gap. The New York Times found the reality in the Buckeye state to be a bit more nuanced.

“He has a really good shot in Silicon Valley, simply because Silicon Valley is full of very entrepreneurially oriented, highly educated people who seem to be Gov. Kasich’s cup of tea,” said Poizner, “Gov. Kasich will do quite well there.”

Poizner speaks with authority about Sacramento and Silicon Valley. He was the rare Republican elected to the statewide office of insurance commissioner in heavily Democratic California, and an entrepreneur who sold one of his two companies, SnapTrack, to Qualcomm for $1 billion.

Kasich has won the support of a handful of recognizable Bay Area players, including Floyd Kvamme and Ted Schlein of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Cisco Executive Chairman John Chambers, all of whom have donated to the pro-Kasich Super PAC, New Day for America, according to Federal Election Commission records.

EBay founder Pierre Omidyar donated $100,000 to the Never Means Never PAC — a group working to deny Trump the Republican presidential nomination, which would serve to benefit the Kasich campaign.

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