Alternative GOP universes: One with Kasich, one without

There are two non-overlapping universes out there among those who want to save the Republican Party from Donald Trump (and, if they truly care, from Ted Cruz).

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

The guy Republicans will nominate if they wan to win.

In one, John Kasich — as the only other survivor of the original 17, and as the only candidate likely to beat Hillary Clinton in the fall — is the obvious alternative.

In the other universe, Kasich either doesn’t exist or exists only as an irritant who should go away, and quickly.

You know I live in the first universe, and praise its wise inhabitants on a regular basis.

Just yesterday, NPR was interviewing former RNC chair and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and he quite naturally mentioned Kasich as the one electable candidate out there:

BARBOUR: Well, I’m certainly a regular Republican. I’ve been a Republican since 1968. But people are looking at two things – electability – and today, in The Wall Street Journal, Clinton leads Trump by 11 points. Almost every poll shows Trump running under 40 in a general election. That’s very scary because if we have a presidential candidate that runs in the low 40s or below, then a lot of Republicans down the ticket are going to lose. They can’t overcome that.

SIEGEL: Does Cruz pose the same threat to the party as Trump?

BARBOUR: His numbers are not as bad today, but one has to worry about electability. And you look at Kasich – he leads Mrs. Clinton by six or seven points in the poll, not as well-known. But we have in Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the two most unfavorably seen presidential candidates ever….

Which, you know, should be obvious to everyone. Like, you know, duh.

Then there’s the other universe, which all-too-often asserts itself. Today I was reading a piece by Jennifer Rubin, who often (but not always) makes a lot of sense, headlined “It’s nearly time for that white knight to show up.” The piece mentioned some really esoteric, out there possibilities for who that knight might be:

That, however, presupposes a candidate, one on which the #NeverTrump forces could agree upon as their white knight. There will be those principled conservatives who want a champion (e.g. Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, former Texas governor Rick Perry, former Indiana govenor Mitch Daniels, current Indiana Gov. Mike Pence), those who think only a respected public person with impeccable national-security credentials has a shot (e.g. retired general James Mattis), Mitt Romney supporters who want one more go at the presidency and still others who think a moderate with appeal to Democrats (e.g. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty) is the only feasible option. Lacking the benefit of a party primary system or caucus, the third-candidate supporters would not have the benefit of testing how contenders do with actual voters. The risk obviously is coming up with someone real voters don’t find compelling….

Who? Sasse? Mattis? Really?

Bizarrely, the column does not even mention Kasich, the one sane alternative who has actually put himself out there, and who has survived the brutal culling process to date. You know, the guy who came in second in Trump’s big win in New York last night.

This is because, apparently, Ms. Rubin really does not like Kasich.

But you know, once you eliminate the two unthinkables and go looking for a knight, the most obvious choice is Sir John, the only guy out there who is already in his armor and mounted up, and who has continued faithfully on his quest lo these many months…

17 thoughts on “Alternative GOP universes: One with Kasich, one without

  1. Doug Ross

    Kasich won’t be selected because he has already been rejected in every state but his own by a 2:1 or worse majority. He’s STILL behind Rubio in delegates and there’s not a clear path for him to even pass Rubio. If he shows up to the convention as the 4th choice of his own party, there’s no way possible for him to be selected to lead the ticket. His supposed “lead” over Hillary would evaporate almost immediately. Anyway, a national poll is meaningless in an electoral college election. Which blue or purple states besides Ohio does he win? If he can’t win at least two of California, New York, Illinois, and Florida it doesn’t matter electorally.

    His only hope for relevancy is as Cruz’ s running mate. He’d be smart to make that deal now with Cruz before he loses to Trump in six states next Tuesday.

    1. Mark Stewart

      And which of those states you call out, Doug, does Cruz have a chance of winning?

      You are forgetting that the general election is a Republican vs. a Democrat. The winner is the one who can attract independents and moderates – across party lines as much as within their own party. Especially in the Electoral College swing states.

      Cruz won’t be able to get any of those votes vs either of the Democrats. He is as toast as Trump. Probably more so, actually.

      1. Doug Ross

        I think Trump has a better shot than Cruz. He could win Florida. He could win New York although it would be tough. He would definitely make Hillary work harder in the Northeast and Rust Belt than Cruz would. This is not any endorsement of Trump. I’m looking at it from a purely strategic standpoint. Kasich would be DOA when Democrats laugh at his poor showing in his own party.

        I think Hillary fears Trump most just because of the fight it will be all summer long. It will be a brawl she won’t be able to match.

        1. Doug Ross

          Trump has a path to the nomination. Nobody else dors. If he gets to 1150 or more with wins in 30+ states all he needs is about 75 more. He already tried to kiss and make up with Rubio. If he gives Rubio the VP slot, you don’t think he can get half of Rubio’s delegates? Throw out all conventional thinking. Trump makes deals every day. Rubio helps in Florida and with Hispanics. ..and he is ambitious enough to sell his soul for a spot on the ticket even if it is to only help him in 2020.

        2. Phillip

          Doug, look at the vote totals in the New York primary from yesterday. The Democratic vote totals (Clinton and Sanders together) is about twice as large as the GOP vote totals (Trump plus Cruz plus Kasich). I don’t think Trump has a prayer in NY state. It’s true that because he’s so different from GOP candidates of recent vintage, he may put a couple of states into play that have not been competitive from the GOP standpoint recently (PA) …but his negatives will drive just as many—probably more—competitive states the other direction, away from him (think Virginia). For goodness’ sake, there is a recent late March poll that shows Trump only leading Clinton by 3 points in MISSISSIPPI.

          We’ll see if he can maintain this recent slight tilt towards seeming a little more “presidential,”—but if he turns the campaign into a summer-long “brawl” as you suggest, I think voters (other than the devoted faithful of his base) will tire of his antics as the election draws near. He might have a better shot than Cruz but that’s not saying much. Neither of them can top 200 electoral votes.

          1. Doug Ross

            I’m not counting Trump out until the votes happen and the FBI absolves Hillary.
            Will he do worse than McCain in 2008 (173)?

            Again, I don’t want him to win.. or Hillary either. Or Cruz. Or Sanders. I just think he has the ability to change the dynamics of the election where it could be interesting.

            1. Doug Ross

              If he keeps every state McCain won can he win any of these:

              Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware?

              Are we 100% sure the economy will be fine six months from now? Are we 100% sure Bill Clinton doesn’t become a story this summer? Are we 100% sure Hillary will make a VP choice that is solid?

              1. Doug Ross

                The Democratic VP choice is going to be a big story. Who out there would be perceived as ready to step in as President? Sarah Palin didn’t help McCain at all and probably hurt him.

                It’s got to be a younger male, right? Would she choose a black or Hispanic male to shore up the diversity angle? Cory Booker or Julian Castro? Are they ready to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency? My guess would be Mark Warner of Virginia.

            2. Bryan Caskey

              “I’m not counting Trump out until the votes happen and the FBI absolves Hillary.”

              The fix is in, my friend. We essentially live in imperial Rome, with better technology and crappier weather.

  2. Jeff Mobley

    Given the hypothetical of a contested convention where delegates have abandoned Trump after the 1st ballot, but do not rally to Cruz, such that neither gets a majority, then it doesn’t really make sense to limit the options to Kasich. I mean, assuming things get to that point, then Republicans might as well consider a lot of people. Should Kasich be one of them? Sure, since he has subjected himself to the trials and scrutiny of the campaign process. On the other hand, he has been (mostly) soundly rejected by the voters, and still trails Marco Rubio in votes. I mean, if you’re considering Kasich, you might as well throw Rubio back into the mix.

    Kasich’s electability vs. Hilary is nothing to dismiss, but there haven’t been a lot of recent head-to-head polls involving a lot of the people that might hypothetically be considered. I wouldn’t necessarily prefer everyone Rubin listed over Kasich, but I do think Sasse would be a good general election candidate.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I don’t think Kasich should be the only one considered after Trump and Cruz, but I think he should be the first. Rubio quit.

      And I think some of those Ms. Rubin mentioned are worth considering.

      But Sasse? Here are my objections to him:

      1. I promise you, I had never heard of him before reading this piece. As you know, I pay little attention to the people other states elect, unless they make their marks on the national scene somehow. And if Sasse’s done that, I missed it. And I firmly believe that unless someone has spent some time in the public glare where we can all observe how he does, he absolutely should not be considered as POTUS. I find it a little bit objectionable to choose anyone who didn’t go through the trials of this campaign up to now. But if the GOP does that, it should at least be someone the nation knows.

      2. He’s a KID. Look at him! He looks like Rubio’s kid brother. Whereas Kasich is a man of respect, a man who made his bones when Sasse was dating cheerleaders! No, scratch that — probably before Sasse was old enough to be attracted to cheerleaders.

      I had some other objections, I think, but they’ve slipped from my mind, so I’ll stick with those two for now…

  3. Jeff Mobley

    I get your first point, but there might also be electoral advantages to his not yet being widely known. Still, I acknowledge it would be taking a risk.

    On the other hand, he had a pretty good CPAC speech 🙂

  4. bud

    Does rule 40 apply after the first ballot? If so, that means only Trump or Cruz will be eligible for votes at the convention. And yes rule 40, or any other rule, can be repealed at any time, but why would a Trump or Cruz delegate want to repeal a rule that prevents other candidates from being placed in nomination?

  5. Jeff Mobley

    Bud, I’ve read different things about whether delegates can cast votes for someone not formally entered into nomination. Certainly the SC GOP’s rules would limit, on the first ballot, their delegates to those entered into nomination (I say that because there’s a rule that SC’s delegates are bound to the primary runner up in the event that the primary winner is not entered into nomination). After that, it’s not so clear.

    Here’s one article that discusses some of this.

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