ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president. Today, John Kasich, the last of Trump's 16 Republican opponents, suspended his campaign. Last night, Ted Cruz did the same after losing the Indiana primary to Trump.
NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is in the studio to talk about this. And, Don, this is quite a remarkable moment for the Republican Party.
DON GONYEA, BYLINE: It is and especially so for the frustrated base of the Republican Party. We've been watching them kind of roiling and stirring things for seven years now. And over the years, they've had other standard-bearers that they've reached out to - Sarah Palin, of course, Ted Cruz when he ran for Senate, and even early on in his presidential campaign, people like Ben Carson, they fell in love with.
But now, finally, they have got their nominee, and it's a billionaire named Donald Trump. And really, a year ago, nobody thought we would be here. You know, we've been watching this boil up from the early days of the Tea Party, and we finally reached a moment when the establishment just couldn't keep a lid on things anymore. And there had been some signs in the past that we could be headed this way. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat. House Speaker John Boehner was ousted. You know, both of them in the last two years, but things really escalated from there to bring us to this poor.
SIEGEL: Well, today's development - John Kasich dropping out - is interesting in that he had all the credentials that the party establishment would have wanted in a candidate.
GONYEA: He is a very experienced and very popular second-term governor. He has congressional experience. When he was in Congress, he played a role in the last balanced-budget deal. He's a conservative who has performed well in his state. That state, by the way, is Ohio, which no Republican has ever won the White House without...
SIEGEL: Without winning Ohio.
GONYEA: ...Carrying Ohio. So it's the ultimate swing state. And, OK, he was the last guy, you know, to drop out. That doesn't mean he was ever going to be the nominee. It never really caught fire, you know? He won his home state. But he felt he needed to represent something. Let's give a listen to a little something from his announcement tonight.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JOHN KASICH: You see, I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me, as he has for everyone. And as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life.
SIEGEL: Now, interestingly, Don, last night, John Kasich said he was staying in the race. What happened between last night and today to change his mind?
GONYEA: So he was supposed to meet with donors today in Washington, and he had some editorial board meetings planned with newspapers here. He was on the plane from Ohio to D.C., and on that flight, he said to one of his aides that his heart just isn't in it anymore. He just doesn't see a way forward. And he asked them to turn the plane around midair, and they went back to Ohio.
SIEGEL: Both literally and politically, he has returned to Columbus.
GONYEA: Yes, exactly.
SIEGEL: Donald Trump said today that he'd be open to having Kasich as his running mate. What do you think about that?
GONYEA: Kasich has said, prior to this, that he would not be Donald Trump's running mate. But again, you know, it's a new day. Things have changed. Trump has said he's interested. And he likes him for the same reason that the establishment liked him and for what Ohio represents and all that. But all we know at this point is that the vetting process for the vice presidential pick is underway. Trump's campaign has said it's being headed by his formal rival, Ben Carson. And they expect to have someone lined up by June.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Don.
GONYEA: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Don Gonyea. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.