Wednesday, July 20, 2016
The Nominee That Got Away
If Donald Trump ends up losing to Hillary Clinton this November, Republicans will spend a lot of time doing some soul searching (I tried real hard not laughing while writing that one), regrouping and, hopefully, reorganizing. I say hopefully, because the country desperately needs a functioning Republican Party that isn't hopelessly lost in a time warp, and losing may be the best path to ensuring that reality.
It certainly seemed that way after the 2012 election debacle. The GOP, if you'll recall, conducted an autopsy to determine what went wrong and, more importantly, how they could prevent a repeat performance. They then proceeded to ignore every suggestion that the autopsy came up with and ended up nominating a candidate who was more extreme than either Mitt Romney or John McCain. Only time will tell whether they pay the price at the polls.
Of all the regrets I suppose they will have - assuming Trump loses - the biggest one will be how they let John Kasich slip away from them. Kasich, the Ohio governor - and might I add, very popular Ohio governor - has decided to skip the GOP convention, which is extraordinary given that it's being held in Cleveland.
The Trump campaign wasn't too thrilled with being snubbed, and in typical fashion they overreacted by trying to embarrass Kasich. Here's a tip for Paul Manafort, for what it's worth: It's colossally stupid to get into a pissing contest with someone who is more popular than your candidate; especially when that someone happens to be the governor of a state that every Republican who's ever been elected president has needed to win. Like it or not, Trump needs Kasich a lot more than Kasich needs Trump.
And that's why it must be doubly infuriating for Kasich and his supporters. While the Republicans trip over themselves at their fright fest trying desperately to convince themselves that Trump will deliver them to the promised land, Kasich knows what every pollster in the country has known since January: that he, not Trump, was the only Republican candidate capable of beating Hillary Clinton in the general election.
While Trump's supporters point gleefully at recent polls that show their guy within the margin of error with Clinton, those same polls only a few months ago showed Kasich up by as much as 7 points. The RCP average, in fact, had him up 7.4 going into May, and that was before the IG and FBI reports came out about Clinton's private email server. For all we know that lead might well've been double digits by now.
While the Bernie or Bust crowd continues yapping away at how much better their guy did in head to head matchups against Trump, the real story has been the Kasich - Clinton matchup. While an argument could be made that Bernie's lead over Trump might've been larger, at no point during the last year has Clinton ever trailed Trump in the RCP average. In fact, with the exception of Rasmussen, every poll has her either tied with or ahead of him.
Against Kasich, however, that's another story. Put succinctly, had the GOP nominated Kasich this week instead of il Duce, they'd be picking out the carpeting in the Oval office as we speak. I'm serious. We'd be talking November landslide for the GOP; something that hasn't happened since Bush 41 beat Dukakis in 1988.
A lot can still happen. As I have been saying for almost a year now, Trump can still win this thing, and for two reasons: One, Hillary is a flawed nominee with huge trust issues. And not all of them are conservative fabrications. Some are simply self-inflicted wounds. But secondly, and perhaps most importantly, there are a lot of pissed off, disenfranchised people out there that Trump has somehow managed to resonate with. He maybe a snake-oil salesman, but with the mood the country's in, snake oil appears to be on the menu.
Then again, Clinton could win and win big. Democrats do have an electoral advantage going into a general election that Republicans don't have. That means any GOP nominee looking to win the White House has a much larger hill to climb, no pun intended.
My point is that the reason this race is so tight has more to do with the baggage these two nominees are carrying around with them than it has to do with any particular issue or policy stance. Indeed, this election may come down to which candidate the country detests the least. And that might end up being the one thing that saves Hillary Clinton from an epic and humiliating loss.
All of which makes the pill that John Kasich was forced to swallow this spring that much more bitter.