Yesterday, John Kasich became the 16th Republican entrant in the presidential race (assuming one counts Donald Trump as a Republican). As a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Kasich was an important player in Newt Gingrich’s conservative revolution of the mid-1990s. As governor of Ohio, Kasich has produced a record strong enough to see him reelected last year by a 2-1 margin in a swing state.
This resume should be more than enough to make Kasich a serious candidate for the nomination. As discussed below, however, I doubt that he is.
I’ve always like Kasich. And I respect the compassionate element of his conservatism that led him, for example, to accept Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, which will make it easier for his relatively low income constituents to obtain health insurance and put them is as good a position to do so as their counterparts in any other state.
Unfortunately, “compassion” is not a recipe for sound, conservative governance. Unchecked, it becomes a one-way ticket to modern liberalism.
Conservative ideology provides a check. But Kasich dismissed it yesterday when he said “policy is far more important than politics or ideology or any of the other nonsense that we see.” The GOP should not seriously consider nominating a candidate who considers conservative ideology “nonsense.”
Nor, I’m pretty sure, will it. Those who favor a compassionate conservative can vote for Jeb Bush, another successful governor and a vastly better funded one. If Bush were to collapse, which I don’t think is likely, Kasich would still have to vie with Chris Christie for the “moderate” vote.
Kasich might be able to hold his own or better against Christie. But at best, that might take him into the “elimination rounds” of the nomination battle; it would not be sufficient to secure him the nomination — not by a long shot.
Perhaps Kasich is interested in the vice presidency. His electoral success in Ohio might tempt the eventual nominee to offering him a place on the ticket.
My sense is that the nominee will need to find a running-mate with more appeal to the base than Kasich possesses, or will possess if he runs the kind of “ideology free” campaign he hinted at yesterday. But this will depend on factors we cannot yet intelligently assess.