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Underdog moment

John Kasich’s effort to score the GOP nomination is a long shot—but not an impossible one

Underdog moment

John Kasich campaigning in Milwaukee. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Ohio Gov. John Kasich enjoyed what was likely the largest crowd of his presidential campaign when he spoke to some 18,000 activists at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in late March. Standing slightly hunched at a glass-top lectern, Kasich delivered a workmanlike speech touting his pro-Israel bona fides, looking down to read most of his remarks as he kept his bearings on the rotating Verizon Center stage and battled a loudspeaker delay.

Finally, he looked up and delivered a familiar line: “I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich thundered, waving his index finger in the air as the crowd erupted in applause. “I will not do it!”

Kasich’s refusal to go negative has largely defined his presidential campaign, but it’s only one of the ways in which the political veteran has marched to his own beat—in both policy and strategy. Critics said Kasich, the last major candidate to launch his campaign, waited too long to get in the race. Now they say Kasich has waited too long to get out. “A vote for John Kasich,” Sen. Ted Cruz began arguing in early March, “is effectively a vote for Donald Trump.”

Kasich, who has won only his home state primary, has refused to leave the race, instead urging Cruz and Trump to consolidate behind him: “I’m beating Hillary [Clinton] by 11 points,” Kasich told NBC’s Chuck Todd in late March. “I’m the only one that can win in the fall.” Kasich may be right, according to polls. They show him performing better than either Cruz or Trump in head-to-head matchups against the two Democratic candidates, Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Kasich, who served nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, boasts of his gubernatorial experience and notes he’s the only candidate who has actually balanced a budget—first as the House Budget Committee chairman, then as governor. Although Kasich set a ticking fiscal bomb by expanding Medicaid in Ohio, he has also facilitated strong job creation there.

The pro-life Kasich, 63, was raised Roman Catholic but became an evangelical after a drunk driver killed his parents in a 1987 car crash. Kasich attends St. Augustine’s Anglican Church in Westerville, Ohio, part of a 7-year-old denomination that affirms biblical marriage, and says his faith affects the way he makes policy decisions. But Kasich has built his moderate reputation in part on his support for the Common Core education standards and his statement indicating that business owners who do not want to be involved in gay weddings should not have conscience protections: “I mean, if you’re in the business of commerce, conduct commerce,” he said.

Is Kasich’s dream of gaining the nomination an impossible one? One of America’s best election analysts, Henry Olsen of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, notes that all three of Kasich’s second-place finishes (among more crowded fields) have come in the Northeast, which will be the center of attention in late April. Kasich is running close to Trump in recent Pennsylvania polling and would almost certainly compete better than Cruz in a slate of other states voting on April 19 and 26: New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island.

On March 27 radio host Hugh Hewitt, who reported on politics for WORLD in 2005 and 2006, penned an op-ed in the Washington Examiner describing a hypothetical meeting between Kasich and Cruz to form an alliance at a deadlocked convention. He listed numerous reasons why Kasich should be at the top of the ticket, including his age, experience, and general election strength.

Hewitt has Kasich saying to Cruz: “We go out together, go up and announce Kasich-Cruz, raise our hands. Hug Donald. Hug everyone. Get a team together, telegraph Romney at State, Carly at Treasury, and get this, whomever you want for Supreme Court. We’ll tell them that. Tell them you will make a recommendation to me by the end of October and that I am going to accept that recommendation publicly unless the nominee has insulted my wife or my girls. We also tell them you have the lead on all judicial picks … and that we are dead serious about remaking the courts. You’ll be to the courts what Cheney was to national security in the first term.”

Why would Cruz say yes to such a proposal? Here’s Hewitt’s fanciful rendition of Kasich’s final pitch: “Turn me down and together we watch a great dramatic meltdown that ends in a catastrophe for the party and worse for the country. Could even be a miniseries. Might take a couple of weeks. Eventually Mitt or Paul will try and put the pieces together but everyone—everyone—will leave angry. Everyone. You and I do a deal, well, Donald understands deals. We’ll give him a lot to do. We’ll even give him the fence to oversee the building of.”

In Hewitt’s analysis, Cruz won’t get the nomination but this way could gain needed experience as vice president and position himself, at age 53, as the party’s presumptive nominee in 2024—en route to a potential 16 years in the White House.

J.C. Derrick

J.C. Derrick

J.C. is WORLD’s deputy chief content officer and WORLD Radio’s managing editor based in Dallas. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

Comments

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

    Donald or  "everyone":  do not want to be hugged by Kasich.  Trump's supporters will walk out, if someone with the lowest # of votes, gets the nomination.  What are you guys thinking?   Do you have any regard for the democratic process in America?  Do the voters & the will of the people, not count in this election?  Or is it really the elite who rule & get to determine what's best?     Kasich has not won a single state, outside of Ohio, & I don't even know why he's still in the race.  It's time to get a grip on reality & drop out now, Kasich!    

  • Dean from Ohio
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    Washington beltway barnacles otherwise known as the Establishment GOP are clutching Kasich like a tiny life ring. Here in Ohio, he's managed the budget well and defunded Planned Parenthood. However, he's looked the other way, apparently, to the growing Islamic corruption surrounding Columbus. He helped keep Obamacare on life support. He's been a fan of Big Education and Common Core, and is a disgrace at standing up for religious freedom. He is a liberal and not to be trusted on social issues.I expect he and Walter Mondale would have gotten along along just fine (and maybe did).

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

    Marco Rubio could be the second term of Hugh Hewitt's 16 years in the White House. If Romney and McCain could not win, why should another GOP moderate?

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

    Agree with the commenters about the loss of religious liberty if Kasich is President. Support for Common Core is also problematic. I heard his speech to AIPAC and was not particularly impressed. I am tired of the news media and the GOP Establishment picking our candidates. If Donald Trump does not get the required amount of votes before the convention, the party should unite behind Ted Cruz. Cruz/Trump or Cruz/Kasich would be better than this fanciful idea of Kasich/Cruz.

  • 4Aslan
    Posted: Thu, 04/21/2016 02:26 pm

    I think the crux of this whole idea, is that Clinton easily beats Cruz or Trump. In the case of Trump, he has clearly taken back an advantage that men distrust Clinton (in how he has so deeply alienated votes from women). Cruz has also looked difficult and tight). I just don't see how if Romney was so easily beaten, that Cruz could fair better. He has deeply struggled in states that were supposed to be his calling card. Could he win Ohio in a general election?Kasich seems to be the only national electable candidate in a general election (at least that is in the race). Also, the previous World article in how poorly Cruz will do in the Northeast sans Kasich speaks to how difficult this race will be for Cruz. In Reality, I believe that the GOP will lose if Kasich is not at the top of the ticket. I believe that this article would work out fantasticly if people truly wanted to work together, take the white-house and put the ideal of pulling us back from the brink.Cruz would have to be willing to negotiate and see his faults in this scenario. I think in a way, the cover-story highlights that he is not a candidate that finds alternative solutions. He's an outsider that fights and calls out his own party. But at some point, it is important to both work with and find middle ground in his own party. 

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

    With a Kasich presidency religious liberty would be perhaps permanently lost.  Freedom of religion requires more than just freedom of worship and if any individuals are denied the freedom to live their lives in accordance with their faith, eventually the entire population will lose our right to express any belief other than the state sanctioned one.  The only exception to freedom to practice one's faith ought to be physical/quantifiable harm to another person - getting one's feelings hurt is not acceptable as a basis for denying religious freedom.  Does Kasich not realize that by denying small business owners the right to live out their faith as they pursue their chosen livelihood, he is saying that you may worship as a Christian on Sunday but the other days of the week you obey the state over God or go hungry?

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

    I was a Kasich supporter, no longer. The GOP base has spoken, have they not? Although Trump's supporters are more Independents than Republicans. Kasich is now no more than a gadfly. Do the math: Adding together the delegates from Cruz and Kasich does not defeat Trump at this point. Ironically, the late state primaries now have influence for both parties. It also seems that the Republican convention and the party in general has a strong likelihood of heading for a cataclysm. I've never been disgusted at a GOP primary as I have with this one. There is such discord that no matter who wins, a large portion of the base will not support the winner and the convention will resemble a pitched battle. I feel that this should be the GOP's strongest priority: To work hard and plan to help land this bird in one piece such that it can defeat Clinton. Sanders is easily defeatable; Clinton is not.

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

    Excellent article, Mr. Derrick!