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.”