Don’t count John Kasich out.
Yes, judged by traditional standards, he is a tortoise racing with hares.
Make that mad hatters.
Primary Season 2016, however, is not a normal campaign, but rather one that’s lurched into a gothic GOP horror story offering Republicans a disquieting choice: Do you avoid Frankenstein’s monster by flinging yourselves into the embrace of Count Dracula?
That is, try to stop Donald Trump by rallying to Ted Cruz?
Either way, polls suggest defeat looms on the fall horizon, a point Kasich underscored in an interview while campaigning in New York.
With the Republican National Convention likely to be contested, Kasich thinks Trump will start to fade after the first ballot, at which point many delegates will no longer be committed to voting for him. Then they will start looking at general election viability.
Kasich, of course, is the one Republican who regularly beats Hillary Clinton in general election matchups, though as he concedes, “the Bern beats everybody.”
As he campaigns on a modest budget, with relatively small ad buys, Kasich is trying to live off the free-media land. That’s always tricky. Still, he’s drawing crowds and lots of coverage in New York.
The case for Kasich would obviously grow stronger if he can show momentum now that the primary schedule has moved to states where his pragmatic conservatism should have more appeal.
In our sit-down, I mentioned two objections I sometimes hear. The first, from GOP conservatives: He’s too liberal, as evidenced by his having accepted Obamacare funds to expand Ohio’s Medicaid program. “Nobody has a record of more constructive conservatism than I have,” Kasich replied. “I have cut more taxes, had more school choice, balanced more budgets, run surpluses, been business friendly.”
The second, from the moderates and liberals: He’s too extreme on abortion, as illustrated, most recently, by his signing a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. That’s something Kasich, who generally strikes a softer tone on social issues, clearly doesn’t like to talk about. When pressed, however, he says if people rule him out because of his antiabortion actions, “then they’re not going to have any Republican they would ever vote for.”
I noted that man-made climate change has been dismissed by both Trump, who once said it was made up by the Chinese and now calls it a hoax, and Cruz, who has in essence said it’s a conspiracy between scientists and liberals to extend government control. Kasich has an evolved, halfway position: Climate change is real and humans contribute to it, but measures to combat it have to be economically realistic.
So what does he think of the outright dismissals by Trump and Cruz?
“It’s more pander,” he said. “That’s why if they’re nominated, we'll get killed.”