Two signs that Kasich’s conservatism is tepid

This has been a good summer for the non-career politicians — Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorini — in the GOP presidential field. But it’s also been a good summer for longtime politician John Kasich. In fact, Kasich, who entered the race late, is now second in the RCP poll average in New Hampshire. He’s fractionally ahead of Jeb Bush but trails Donald Trump by a wide margin (24.7-11.0)

Kasich has always been near the bottom of my preference list, and he has fallen even lower on two related pieces of news.

First, Kasich is the preferred candidate of Tom Rath, a longtime New Hampshire operative who is now advising the Ohio governor. Rath, you may recall, was instrumental in the elevation of David Souter to the Supreme Court. I recounted this sad history here.

Rath promoted Souter knowing that he was not a conservative (but he didn’t share this knowledge with President George H.W. Bush or his team). And Rath continued to praise Souter’s jurisprudence even as Souter voted with his fellow liberals in key case after key case.

When Souter retired, Rath said that as a Supreme Court Justice, his friend “turned out exactly what we thought he would be” and “did exactly what I always expected him to to.” For example, Rath characterized Souter’s vote to reaffirm Roe v. Wade as “classically David Souter.”

Given Rath’s role in the Kasich campaign, we shouldn’t be surprised by the second piece of disturbing Kasich news — the governor’s embrace of Roe v. Wade. Asked recently whether he would “respect the Roe versus Wade decision.” Kasich responded: “Obviously, it’s the law of the land now, and we live with the law of the land.”

But as Ed Whelan points out, “the Constitution (together with federal laws ‘made in Pursuance thereof’ and treaties) is the law of the land.” Supreme Court decisions control the outcome of particular cases, but when they erroneously interpret the Constitution, they need not be “respected.”

Ed explained the distinction this way:

It is one thing for the Supreme Court to decline to apply a law that it deems to be unconstitutional; it is quite another for it to maintain that presidents, members of Congress, and state officials must likewise regard the law as unconstitutional and, further, must accept and follow the rationale of the Court’s decision.

Kasich is simply wrong. We don’t “live with” bad Supreme Court decisions; we challenge them — or should. (Later Kasich said that Roe is “the law of the land until it changes,” which isn’t much of an improvement).

It’s no accident that Tom Rath selected John Kasich as his preferred candidate from a large, talented GOP field. (Rath was a Mitt Romney supporter, which was a strike against Romney in my view, but Romney was a friend of Rath and the Republican cupboard was much closer to bare when Romney sought the nomination.) Rath’s support is a strong signal that Kasich is not a good option for conservatives.

The signal is reinforced by Kasich’s misguided “respect” for Roe v. Wade.