John Kasich has enough delegates that he can probably put Donald Trump over the top if Trump doesn’t win the Republican presidential nomination on the first ballot at the party’s convention in Cleveland this summer.
That’s reason enough for Trump to put the Ohio governor on his ticket. In fact, he would do well to magnanimously throw the vice presidential nomination open to the convention with the knowledge that his own delegates would secure the spot for Kasich.
But pure palace intrigue is the least of the reasons that the GOP front-runner should run with Kasich.
The governor comes from a swing state that Republicans must win to take the presidency, he has crossover appeal with Democrats who watched the Republican debates and mistakenly thought he won every one, he’s got both executive and legislative experience and, most important, his selection would signal to both the establishment wing of the GOP and the general electorate that Trump is serious about governing.
He’s also an intriguing choice because he blunts Hillary Clinton’s advantage with voters who remember fondly — and foggily — the bipartisan deal-making of the Bill Clinton era. It was Kasich who sat at the table and hammered out budget deals in a time of surplus and a welfare reform law.
Brutally for Clinton, those deals could endear Kasich to swing voters but could also depress a Democratic base that hated the welfare law and didn’t have much use for deficit reduction compared to bigger spending on domestic priorities.
Because he’s fought like a gentleman in the bite-and-claw rugby scrum of the Republican nomination contest, Kasich’s favorability ratings are sky-high. He’s also the candidate still in the GOP race that Democrats think poses the greatest challenge to their dreams of a third consecutive term in the White House.
Republican strategist Ron Christie, who once worked for Kasich, said Tuesday night on Sidewire.com that he didn’t think Kasich would take it. But I’m skeptical that a second-term governor facing the end of his political career would look a gift horse in the mouth. And while I’m not convinced that a vice presidential pick nails down particular states, recent history suggests the right person can reassure undecided voters or, in the case of Sarah Palin, the wrong choice can help disqualify a candidate in the minds of voters who think it shows poor judgment on the part of the nominee.
Kasich as the two-seed also solves, or at least ameliorates, another problem for Republicans. Down-ballot candidates are worried about having to endorse or disavow Trump. The right answer could be: “I think Kasich will balance out Trump, and Trump’s decision to pick him makes me more confident in his judgment.”
In a potential Trump-Kasich administration, the vice president could serve as the chief liaison to Capitol Hill. Kasich appears to have mellowed, at least a little, since the days when he was known for having a bit of an edge. Just the olive branch of picking a deal-making congressional veteran would surely be a welcome offer. Though it infuriated his own party at times, Vice President Joe Biden’s ability to talk to old friends in Congress helped grease the skids for a series of Obama-signed agenda items, including budget, tax and nuclear disarmament matters.
Of course, after a lifetime in politics and public service, Kasich has some baggage. And Democrats are already pointing to things like his recent comments on young women avoiding parties to prevent sexual assault as stains on his record that will be hard to remove.
But the Kasich move — particularly if it’s choreographed to telegraph consensus within the party — would go a long way toward unifying Republicans whom Trump will need behind him to defeat Hillary Clinton. It’s such an obvious move that Trump probably won’t do it. But it makes a lot of sense for a lot of reasons.