Thursday, July 30, 2015

Can John Kasich Win the White House?

I've written about Jeb Bush and Rand Paul and their chances of beating Hillary Clinton next year. Bush will have a mountain of money at his disposal and, like it or not, money means a lot in politics. It is estimated that over $1 billion will be spent on next year's presidential election. Bush can play a moderate, though at heart, he's far more conservative than he lets on. Rand Paul's stances on American foreign policy and domestic surveillance have earned him high praise from both sides of the political spectrum. And, unlike so many of his fellow GOP candidates, he isn't certifiable. There is  a genuineness about him that even his opponents find charming.

But with the announcement that Ohio Governor John Kasich has decided to get in the race, it's only fitting to ask what his odds are of winning the general election, assuming of course he wins the nomination. Here's my answer. Not only could he win, on paper he's actually the best qualified among the Republican candidates to run for the presidency. Consider the following:

  • Unlike Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Kasich is actually popular in his state. He is polling over 50 percent, compared to Walker, who is polling in the low 40s. What that means is that in a general election, Kasich could win his state, while Walker would most likely lose his. A recent poll found Kasich leading Hillary Clinton 47-40 percent among Ohio voters. Historically speaking, when Republicans win the White House, they typically take Ohio.
  • While Kasich isn't the most flamboyant of the GOP candidates - seriously, he makes John Kerry look like Mick Jagger  - he's comes off far more likable and genuine than Walker, Bush or any other candidate, except maybe Paul.
  • He's a fairly effective governor. Yes, I'll admit it, among Republican governors, Kasich has done the best job. He hasn't tanked his state's economy like Walker and Kansas's Sam Brownback have. While Ohio is not exactly near the top in job growth, they're far from the bottom. It will be very difficult for Democrats to criticize his resume in a general election.
  • While he is definitely conservative, he's no ideologue. He expanded Medicaid in his state, a no-no among the wingnuts in the Tea Party.  And he's also smart enough not to get into a pissing contest with Hillary over emails and Benghazi because he knows the last time the GOP tangled with a Clinton over something stupid, they got their clocks cleaned.

My take is that, if Kasich actually gets the nomination, he will focus exclusively on policy. He will avoid the typical trappings of past Republican nominees and be a formidable opponent for Hillary Clinton. And, yes, he can beat her. He can take Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and at least one other swing state like Colorado or Iowa. If you're counting, that's enough to win the White House.

In just the last few days, Kasich's poll numbers have risen sufficiently enough to make it into that all-important top ten field for GOP candidates. That means he will be on the stage for the first Republican debate. It should be quite interesting seeing how he handles himself among his fellow candidates. Will he cower to the Right the way Mitt Romney did in 2012, or will he be his own man and let the chips fall where they may?

National polls are meaningless. It's the individual state polls that determine who gets to call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue home in 2017. And if I'm a Republican strategist, I'm rooting like hell for John Kasich to win the nomination. If I'm a Democratic strategist, I'm praying like hell for Donald Trump.

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