Monday, May 08, 2017


Aaron Blake of The Washington Post thinks John Kasich might challenge Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020.
[Kasich] talked to Bill Maher on Friday night and sounded like a guy who may well be in the market for a new project after he's finished as governor in January 2019.

Here's the exchange, which Maher began by urging Kasich to do it for the good of the republic:
MAHER: I could see a challenge in the Republican Party for 2020. Would you be up for that?

KASICH: It — it all … [AUDIENCE APPLAUDS] No, no, no, no, no. Look, I'm going to …

MAHER: You wouldn't challenge him as a sitting president?

KASICH: That's so — it's so speculative. And look, I'm going to finish my term in 18 months as governor of our state, pull the state together and get it to do better and better and better. That's what I'm all about — and giving everybody a shot. And then I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm going to keep a voice, but I can't predict to you — I never thought I would be governor, I never thought I'd go back into politics. So, what I look for is, ‘What is it I'm supposed to do? What is it I'm supposed to do in my lifetime to build a better world or build a better community or whatever?’ And so I can't tell you what that's going to be, and I'm not plotting and scheming. I'm rooting for him to do well, Bill, for the same reason I root for a pilot on my airplane to do well. Okay? He's the president.
It's pretty clear Kasich is leaving the door cracked open here.
I know a lot of people think Trump won't even be president by 2020. I disagree: Russiagate is a problem for his administration, but anyone who thinks it's going to bring him down ignores recent history -- Plamegate didn't end George W. Bush's presidency; Iran-contra didn't end Ronald Reagan's. Trump can't wrap himself in the American flag on Russiagate the way Reagan could on Iran-contra, but Trump can take advantage of the perception that he's too poorly informed to have been a principal schemer, just the way Reagan did. (Josh Marshall calls this "the Mr. Magoo version" of Trump.) And no, Trump won't leave because of disability: I've watched elderly minds slip, and Trump isn't showing signs of dementia, he's merely manifesting symptoms of ignorance, incuriosity, and inarticulateness. In any event, he's not going anywhere as long as the vast majority of Republican voters think he's awesome, which they still do.

That could change by 2020 -- but if it does, he's not going to lose a primary to someone who postures as a moderate. If GOP voters decide his presidency hasn't been a success, it will be because he hasn't done enough harm to Democrats and liberals. The party's base voters will claim he's not a true conservative (because conservatism can't fail, it can only be failed), and they'll turn to someone even nastier. They won't turn to Kasich, who likes to act reasonable, even when he's advocating very conservative policies.

Could Kasich ever become president? If he could find a billionaire to bankroll a third-party bid for him, I suspect he'd have a shot. Last year he had a surprising number of moderately liberal voters thinking he was a moderate. In April 2016, before GOP voters closed ranks around Trump, Kasich was beating Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College, according to a Morning Consult analysis of state polling results. Kasich was winning Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Minnesota, and Colorado. (He was losing in Florida.) Trump at the time was well behind Clinton in the Electoral College. Also note that Kasich beat Clinton in every 2016 head-to-head poll listed by Real Clear Politics. When he dropped out of the race, his margin of victory over Clinton was 7.4 points, according to RCP.

Kasich is a fake centrist -- he fakes it too convincingly to win a GOP primary, but voters outside the GOP and in the party's non-angry minority like what they hear from him. In theory, Democrats should have a fired-up electorate for 2020, but if they screw up, which they're very capable of doing, and if Trump is weak, a well-financed apparent centrist could pick off enough moderate votes to be competitive.

But Kasich won't run that way, so it's not going to happen.

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