President John Kasich?

Q&A | Political scholar Henry Olsen sees a possible path to the White House for the Ohio governor
by Marvin Olasky
Posted 3/25/16, 10:54 am

Many pundits say John Kasich has no chance for the Republican presidential nomination and should drop out. Last week I interviewed an excellent political analyst, Henry Olsen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. He has a different view of Kasich’s prospects.

The Wisconsin primary on April 5 will be big. What’s your forecast? One of two things will happen. Either John Kasich’s campaign will flare out or—this is likelier—the national media and the Republican Party will suddenly realize there are three candidates in the race.

Tell us more, please. Wisconsin is a state where the campaigns of evangelical Christian conservative candidates go to die. It’s where Rick Santorum lost by 8 points to Mitt Romney [in 2012], where Mike Huckabee lost by more than that to John McCain [in 2008]. Wisconsin has had one of the higher percentages of moderates. It has many Catholics who are moderates and vote Republican, but not for evangelical conservative candidates who can’t offer more than that. George W. Bush offered more, but for candidates who are so clearly defined as Ted Cruz has defined himself, this is a hard place.

Lots of blue-collar Republicans … Also racial tensions. Highly segregated Milwaukee has a large African-American population. Wisconsin has a lot of downscale blue-color workers in the Fox River Valley. Reporters will go to Oshkosh to learn what blue-color Republicans think. Or Racine. Trump will do very well in these places. He will do well in rural and small town Wisconsin, battling Ted Cruz for domination there. Then he’ll get to Milwaukee, where moderate, upscale, educated Republicans live.

Kasich country … John Kasich has done very well with this group in every race so far. He beat Ted Cruz in metropolitan Chicago, 90 miles south, and in metropolitan Detroit. John Kasich will keep Ted Cruz from winning anything in metropolitan Milwaukee. The question is whether Kasich can win congressional districts.

Your prediction, please? Trump will win with between 35 and 40 percent of the vote. He may win all eight congressional districts. If he does, it will be precisely because where Cruz is strong Trump is stronger. The 8 to 10 percent of the vote that Kasich will get in Wausau and rural Wisconsin will keep Cruz from winning the vote there. Kasich and Cruz will split the anti-Trump vote in suburban Milwaukee.

Do Cruz folks understand the problem? Not the magnitude of the task that’s ahead of them. No one in this campaign has figured out how to deal with John Kasich. That’s the key to stopping Donald Trump from getting 1,237 delegates.

After Wisconsin does Kasich get some strange new respect? That’s the question. If he does well enough to win two or three of the congressional districts in Milwaukee, he starts to gain strength. If he doesn’t win anything but is clearly an urban spoiler there will be pressure on him to get out because there will no longer be a margin for error. New York votes two weeks after that, and the five Northeastern modern states vote a week after New York.

If Kasich does well … That gives him momentum going into the Northeast states to say, “Ted, you can’t compete here. I can. You are the one who needs to get out. You are the spoiler. We would have carried suburban Milwaukee. We would have won the state because I am the candidate best positioned to win the states going forward.”

If Kasich doesn’t do well … It’s a conundrum. Cruz will make the opposite request. If Kasich ends up being a spoiler there will be a lot of pressure on him. A massive, very intense discussion will go on after Wisconsin.

So you can’t forecast what will happen in New York and those other Eastern states? No, but I’ll give you alternatives. One: It remains a three-person race. Kasich wins some congressional districts in the New York metropolitan area. Cruz is competitive in one or two of the Upstate districts. Donald Trump sweeps the board.

Second alternative? Cruz gets out, or says, “I’m not going to campaign in the Northeast. I’ll keep my campaign going but Cruz supporters anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard should vote for John Kasich.” Kasich would do extremely well in New York. He could carry the state. He could most definitely carry a large number of congressional districts, and that would give him a lot of momentum.

Third alternative? Kasich gets out. Donald Trump carries New York. Cruz will come out with only a couple of congressional districts at best in the Upstate. He will be wiped out by delegates coming out of New York.

Then what? If all three candidates are in the race, we’ve got the same thing playing out in Connecticut and Rhode Island—very good Kasich states Cruz could keep him from winning. Kasich runs very well with Trump in Pennsylvania, losing some congressional districts but maybe carrying the state. The same in Maryland. Kasich could win Maryland if it’s a one-on-one race.

And down the road? Some California congressional districts profile well for him. Oregon and Washington have proportional primaries. If all goes well for him he could go to the convention with 500 delegates.

What if Kasich gets out? Cruz gets pasted everywhere. He wins some congressional districts in the highly religious parts of Pennsylvania but loses the state badly and loses most of the districts. He loses six or seven of Maryland’s eight congressional districts. He loses Connecticut and Rhode Island badly, and it becomes very clear at that point that Ted Cruz cannot win the nomination.

So the Cruz campaign’s desire to go one-on-one against Donald Trump is silly? The Cruz campaign does not understand how the Midwest and Northeast differ from the rest of the country. The campaign also does not understand how unappealing Ted Cruz is to the sort of Republican who is the decisive voter in those areas. The moderate non-religious person, or the moderately conservative non-evangelical Christian who lives in Nassau County will look at Donald Trump and Ted Cruz and say, “Why am I in this party?” In that case might they be likelier to vote for the New Yorker rather than the Texan? You betcha.

So the logical deal to be struck against the king of the dealmakers, Donald Trump, would be a Cruz-Kasich cartel? Yes.

And do you think that’s going to happen? It’s highly unlikely to happen because of the egos of the individuals involved.

Would Kasich try to be at the top of the ticket? He will argue—and I believe correctly—that he is better positioned to win the general election because he appeals more to the moderate voter who swings between the parties. Those who say, “I voted for Obama but can’t vote for Hillary Clinton” will look at Kasich as an acceptable alternative. They will look at Cruz as somebody they will have to take with castor oil.

Pundits are saying Kasich has no path to the nomination. I hear you saying there is a path. Let’s say at some point the message from the Cruz campaign to the Kasich campaign is, “Let’s work together and you, John Kasich, will be my vice president.” To which Kasich then responds? Back at you, babe.

Kasich’s argument is … “One, you can’t stop Trump going forward. I can. Two, you can’t beat Hillary or are less likely to. I can. Three, I’m older, you’re younger. If you’re my veep you succeed me.”

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is Reforming Journalism. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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  • Auslander
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I echo what many have said - Kasich is a nonstarter. The interviewed commentator falls prey to typical Beltway political analysis - virtually all of which has been turned on its head this cycle. He makes no allotment for the unhinged rebellion the GOP will have on its hands if it tries to ditch Trump on a technicality. It would be the first GOP convention with a full-scale riot.

    I'm not a Trump supporter but you have to read reality. Trump's supporters are the most fired up and enthusiastic by far. He's performed better than anyone else in the primaries. More than that, he symbolizes the quiet revolution in his meta-message: The Experts Have Failed. Complicating matters for Cruz and Kasich is the fact that Trump, for all his wrongs, is right on that pivotal thing - the experts *have* failed.

  • Nate T
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I will also add...@ Pastor Ed- I am not advocating a moderate candidate per se, just demonstrating Trump does not have broad appeal, as some are arguing. Clinton is a very week candidate because of all her scandals and dishonesty, even among Democrats she is not trusted by the majority. This would become obvious in a race with Cruz but probably be overshadowed by Trump's alienating comments. Similarly, Cruz could deconstruct Sanders socialism in a way Donald Trump cannot, even most Trump supporter acknowledge his lack of substance on most policy issues.

  • Nate T
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I don't think Kasich is likely to be nominated, or should be, given his overall poor performance. I am, however, frustrated that people continue to blindly promote Trump as a candidate that can defeat Clinton or Sanders, or as a candidate that would promote conservative (and particularly limited) government. All we have is his promises, why do we expect Trump's promises to be worth more than other candidates? Yes he is not part of the establishment, but his past is not consistent with his current rhetoric, he has boasted in his funding of the political machines to further his own economic interests. On what grounds do we expect that he will suddenly become an unbiased and principled leader and stop seeking his own selfish ends? I fear Trump, much like our current President, holds little respect for the limitations placed on the executive by the Constitution.

  • MiamiDan's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    It sounds to me like the same ole routine: always wanting to insert a moderate because we're afraid a conservative cannot get the votes. How often do we have to go through this? They did the same thing with McCain. McCain was doing great, for a time -- until he began to look just like Obama. Then people decided that if he's going to look like a liberal, then they may as well vote for the liberal.Every time we put a moderate on the ticket against the liberal (who runs in such a way as to look less liberal), the liberal always wins. People want a conservative President, but those in control of the Republican party are too liberal to realize that! If only we could get some true conservatives in control of the so-called conservative party!Figure it out people! There's no such thing as a moderate. There exists only conservatives and liberals. One is either conservative or liberal, or at best less liberal, but liberal nonetheless! And just to be clear, I am not here talking about Republican and Democrat, but conservative and liberal; they're not necessarily the same thing.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Kasich is living in a dream world, which could very well destroy our religious liberties!

  • Pastor Ed
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    this guy doesn't get it.  Moderate Republicans are indistinguishable from Democrats to the majority of voters.   Have we learned nothing from the failed campaigns of Bush (41), Dole, McCain, and Romney.  The moment the Republican attempts to attract the middle, they all run to the left.  when a Republican sticks to principled positions on the key issues, the voters respond.  Kasich cannot beat Hillary or Bernie, neither can Trump.  If Kasich gets out now, Ted Cruz is President.  If he does not get out now, Hillary or Bernie is President.  

  • Nate T
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    @ proudmama- I have heard many other make a similar claim, that only Trump can defeat Hillary or Sanders, but I have never heard this substantiated. I don't think it is true that Trump has broad appeal. Trump's supporters are drawn by his personality, which also tends to drive away many others (this is only increased by his tendency to attack personally anyone he disagrees with). Personally, I think it unlikely that Trump would attract many moderate voters, especially with his positions on immigration and his disrespect of women. Additionally, polls do not indicate that Trump has broad support. When pitted against Clinton or Sanders, Trump does the poorest of the remaining Republican candidates by a significant margin And in a campaign with either of the two, it would be easy for the average voter to forget about the significant weaknesses of the Democratic candidate with Trump's constant distractions.

  • TexasMcCoyFam
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    What happens with expanded Medicaid is that the new patients get put managed Medicaid plans and many providers chose not to take those plans.  So you have have coverage but cannot find a doctor.  See what happened in Ohio:    I'm a provider in the state of Texas.  As soon as the ACA passed the state started looking at ways to reduce reimbursements and this was without expansion.  That was 2010 and it's taken my office six years to recover from that.  I enjoy serving those in need but it's come at a cost to my family.  Many providers of all types stopped taking new Medicaid patients over night.  When Managed Medicaid expanded (not the eligible patients), the changes in requirements to serve these patients further drover providers away.  So who got hurt first?  The Medicaid patients.  The waiting lists to see those willing to take Mediciad grew to 8 and 12 months for many provider types.  This only becomes worse when you expand those eligible.  Ultimately it makes it tempting for the independent provider to change careers or go work for a government or corporate entity.  This pushes us closer to "universal healthcare" and that's the real endgame of the ACA.  Those willing to work within the ACA but have the power to dismantle or abolish it are complicit. 

  • Narissara
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Why isn't World talking about the movement to change the platform of the Republican Party in such a way that would marginalize conservative Christians and allow these "moderates" to legitimately say their views reflect the party?   This is something that is being voted on at the state conventions, and then the national, but there hasn't been a peep.  

  • Laneygirl
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Very good analysis. I grew up in Nassau County and recognize the conundrum of a non-religious conservative in choosing to stay "R".  My own sister votes democrat :-(( and could support Kasich.Our current president was elected as savior. Let's stop looking for a president to do that- see what has happened?

  • Joe
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    @Lizzy - well said.  Kasich seems like a nice guy, so perhaps the tone of his administration, especially in foreign affairs may be more tolerable than that of Trump, but the "experience" that he keeps touting is part of what has brought us to the current mess (although I feel Obama and Hillary carry a greater share -- but I digress). Kasich is the epitome of "establishment insider",  it is hard to see anything changing under his leadership, seems like we continue down the slippery slope, maybe just not as fast as with Hillary. It is laughable to suggest that if Cruz gets out Kasich somehow has a chance to carry NY.  I have to agree with the article on the potential for a Kasich/Cruz alliance, egos are way to big at this level for it to have any chance, just as with Rubio/Cruz, even though together, Cruz + Kasich (+ Rubio + Carson) may have enough delegates to decide that one of them could be the nominee.  The math doesn't matter if the egos prevent the addition.

  • Lizzy's picture
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Copied from the Washington Times, 7/21/2015 interview with John Kasich:5. Gay marriage? Time to “move on,” says Kasich.  Kasich voted for the Defense of Marriage Act years ago and supported Ohio’s ban on gay marriage. But he was pragmatic after the Supreme Court ruling June 26 overturned state bans. Two days later, he was interviewed on “Face the Nation” and said: “I believe in traditional marriage, but the Supreme Court has ruled. It’s the law of the land, and we’ll abide by it. ... It’s time to move on.”He then called for conservatives to refocus on other urgent issues, such as jobs, national defense and “healing the division between races."This is why if the beltway Republicans once again put forth an "electable" moderate candidate it won't really matter even in the unlikely event that he wins.  As far as I am concerned one of the core issues in this campaign is whether or not the constitution will still matter in a couple years.  Religious liberty and freedom of speech are both being sacrificed on the altar of pandering to those who claim hurt feelings if not everyone agrees that sexual immorality should be not just tolerated but instead celebrated by decree of the state.  Without the core liberties of freedom of religion and freedom of speech, not only will it not matter if we focus on the issues of jobs and race relations, but nothing effective will be accomplished.  The state may be able to coerce behavior, but it can't change hearts and unless responsible behavior flows from the minds and hearts of the people being governed the government will have to institute an increasingly intrusive role in our lives.  There is no way to legislate a society where no one gets their feelings hurt and to destroy religious liberty in that vain pursuit is not worthy of the beacon of hope this nation used to be. Also, Kasich wraps much of his preference for bigger government in the idea that Jesus calls us to do so.  I used to be a believer in the idea of compassionate conservatism, but as far as I can see the idea is unworkable in the real world because compassion is not something that can be done from a distance.  True compassion requires the kind of personal relationship between giver and receiver that can never be duplicated by government.  All increased government does is empower an elite group to make decisions affecting the lives of people they will never know and don't actually care about while enabling that elite group to feel like they are really good people for doing so.BTW, when Kasich claims that expanded Medicaid is what Jesus would have us do and that we will each have to justify to the Lord why we didn't support Medicaid expansion, why is that less judgmental than anything Cruz has said?  Or is it deemed less judgmental because it offers the pretense of caring for the poor without having to get one's hands dirty by actually doing something?  And is it Scripturally valid to claim we must support Medicaid because Jesus says so, but once we have expanded free medical coverage and the inevitable rationing takes place, are the elites going to be willing to have their care rationed as well?  Wouldn't that be the Scriptural position?  This is where the elites fail to understand the appeal of Trump.  I have made no secret of the fact that I am a Cruz supporter because to me the constitutional issues are at a make or break point, but I can understand the frustration of some of my fellow citizens that is leading them to support Trump.  For the millions of ordinary Americans who work ordinary jobs to take care of their ordinary families it is beyond frustrating to see the elites viewing them simply as a voting block to be wooed with false promises every few years.  Granted in a divided government they might not always prevail, but it doesn't seem to be too much to ask to have our elected representatives at least make the attempt to legislate the way they have promised (rather than caving in to the opposition on issues such as Common Core, the budget and Obamacare).  Obamacare has hurt probably as many as it has helped and the ones hurt are the ones in the middle - the responsible people who had catastrophic coverage because that was what they could afford and who now find their premiums skyrocketing.  While the elites pat themselves on the backs for "expanding" coverage, millions of ordinary Americans now struggle with trying to find ways to pay insurance premiums that have become much less "affordable".

  • proudmama
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Last week, it was Governor Perry.   This week, it's John Kasik.   One with zero states.  Second with one state.   No, it's not about egos, but about basic math.    Let's see, someone with zero ability to win outside his own state is positioned to win the general election.  Say what?     You think Kasik has the cross-over appeal to get Obama voters?  There's only one who has that:  the one you despise:  Donald Trump.    Trump & Cruz need to unite & stop tearing each other down. A Trump/Cruz ticket would be a powerful one, indeed.