For president: Kasich, Clinton

The Observer editorial board

Clinton Bloomberg

For many North Carolina voters, the 2016 presidential election demands a different kind of calculation. Do you vote for a candidate who reflects your values and policy preferences, or do you vote to keep one dangerous candidate from becoming president?

That candidate, of course, is Donald Trump.

We believe the Republican frontrunner is uniquely unfit to be president, or even the GOP’s nominee. He offers startlingly simplistic views on domestic and foreign policy. He displays crassness toward women and bigotry toward Muslims. He is toxic, both here and on the world stage.

Just as alarming is Trump’s seeming disregard of the constitutional limits on the office he seeks. In the past two debates alone, he has threatened the U.S. House Speaker and dismissed the notion that military officials would decline to follow illegal orders he issued on terrorists. “If I say do it, they’re going to do it,” he said Thursday, before backtracking a day later.

It’s a consistent display of arrogance that walks uncomfortably close to authoritarianism, and it’s why Democrats and Republicans have long stopped laughing at the bad but benign joke they thought Trump was. He is, very simply, a threat to his party and country.

In North Carolina and other primary states, voters who realize this have a decision to make. If they want to cast an affirmative vote for a GOP candidate, one who has a record of results that represent their party’s historic values, we recommend John Kasich.

The Ohio governor’s campaign has been largely positive thus far, which of course has resulted in it getting lost in the slapfight that the GOP primary has become. But Kasich’s message – and his record as governor and congressman – is both clear and refreshing: It’s possible to lead with conservative principles, work across the aisle, balance budgets and be attentive to all citizens.

He is a fiscal hawk who helped close a budget shortfall in Ohio, but he also allowed for the expansion of Medicaid in his state and has shown an openness to offering undocumented immigrants a path to legal status. N.C. voters might recognize that kind of conservative; Kasich is the Eisenhower Republican we thought we were getting as governor four years ago.

At this point, however, Kasich is the longer of long shots to beat Donald Trump in North Carolina – at least according to polls. In this extraordinary election year, voters intent on defeating Trump might want to be more purposeful with their vote. If you want to swallow hard and go with a less-desirable but better-positioned alternative, we understand.

But if you want a candidate whose pragmatic conservatism echoes the GOP in its better days, we recommend John Kasich. He is the best of the candidates to move the party forward.

Democratic primary

In poll after poll and primary after primary, voters have sent a peculiar message about Hillary Clinton. Most believe she should be the Democratic nominee for president. Most don’t particularly trust her.

We get it. From Whitewater to Travelgate to, more recently, a botched Benghazi response, Clinton has been less than transparent and perhaps worse. There are other examples, too, including the most recent – conducting official business as Secretary of State away from the public eye on a private email server.

Voters shouldn’t dismiss any of that. But as many did with her husband’s flaws, voters should determine whether Clinton’s strengths as a candidate outweigh those trust issues.

In this Democratic primary, at least, they do. We admire the populist message and passion of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but Clinton has the breadth of experience and practical policy positions that have more of a chance in Washington.

Here’s what ultimately counts most: We agree with Clinton on many of the country’s most pressing challenges, such as improving Obamacare, tackling income inequality and securing America’s safety with a blend of diplomacy and strength.

Yes, Clinton has come late to issues like income inequality and the bloated power of America’s financial institutions. She is not a visionary, but she certainly has been a fighter for those who need one. And although she and President Barack Obama have struggled along with the rest of the world to contain terrorism, Clinton has a broader and more precise grasp of foreign policy issues than does Sanders.

Importantly, she also is more electable in November than an idiosyncratic, self-described “Democratic socialist” would likely be.

A caveat: That email server might still do more damage to Clinton’s candidacy, should the FBI pursue a criminal investigation. For now, Hillary Clinton is merely a flawed candidate, but the best candidate for the Democratic party.