Sen. Bernie Sanders won’t beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary. But could Ohio Gov. John Kasich?
One pesky detail: Kasich is a Republican.
If Sanders — a self-described democratic socialist elected to the Senate as an independent — can seek the Democratic nomination for president, why not Kasich?
“My party is my vehicle, not my master,” Kasich likes to say. Kasich is the master of an Ohio Republican Party without a platform.
Nationally, he could use a new set of wheels.
Although Kasich’s mantra that “economic growth is not an end unto itself” is meant to sound centrist, it sums up a campaign built around Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
To hear Kasich tell it, his expert management of an economy rebounding from the 2007-09 recession empowered Ohio to put drug addicts, the mentally ill and the working poor on Medicaid using state dollars.
At a New Hampshire event last month, Kasich explained, “When a state becomes more prosperous, it’s almost like a mom and dad. When mom and dad do well, the kids do better.”
Kasich’s narrative is Clintonian in both its big-government “it takes a village to raise a child” mindset and its dishonesty: Paid for with new federal spending, Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is in no way a product of Ohio’s job growth.
The media have given Kasich a pass on Obamacare funding claims debunked by the Congressional Research Service. Republican primary candidates won’t.
“I wanna take $14 billion of Ohio money back to Ohio, away from Washington in this whole Medicaid thing,” Kasich told ABC’s Jon Karl during an interview at a Washington, D.C., summit hosted by The Atlantic.
At another D.C. conference the next day, Kasich told CNN host Gloria Borger his Obamacare expansion was a way to “get our money back from Washington, $14 billion to help our local communities.”
If Kasich were chasing the Democratic nomination for president, he wouldn’t need to keep repeating an indefensible talking point. It’s not as if Clinton would criticize billions per year in new federal welfare spending.
A Democratic primary would be fertile ground for Kasich’s insistence that God will punish Obamacare opponents, and cost overruns in Kasich’s Obamacare expansion wouldn’t much concern Democratic primary voters.
As a Democrat, Kasich would have to explain his push for a balanced federal budget — but that’s no problem, as Kasich is already taking cues from far-left Sen. Elizabeth Warren by bashing greedy rich people.
After all, who else would “mom and dad” tax to buy things for “the kids?” Kasich has cut income taxes in Ohio while sharply increasing spending, so he’s no stranger to tax-shifting, as Americans for Tax Reform, Tax Foundation and Ohio businesses can attest.
With Clinton weakened by a crop of scandals so plentiful even the broadcast news networks are questioning her inevitability, the time is ripe for Kasich to pull a Charlie Crist and leave a “hard right” Republican party that “won’t cooperate with the president on anything.”
Those are former Florida governor Crist’s words, but they’re consistent with Kasich’s support for President Obama’s policies and Kasich’s complaints about “narrow ideologues” fighting Obamacare.
Crist campaigned as an independent before becoming a Democrat. Kasich may want to skip a step in his own Crist-ening and become a Democrat immediately.
Where septuagenarian socialist Sanders offers Democrat primary voters a hopeless option to Clinton’s left, Kasich could run as an aisle-crossing departure from the divisive Obama years.
Regardless of whether Kasich seeks either party’s nomination for president in 2016, he’s warning Republicans a candidate with an “ideologically pure” message cannot win Ohio.
In an interview with Watchdog.org, Matt Mayer, president of free-market think tank Opportunity Ohio, said Kasich is hawking a failed brand.
“He can’t run as a Democrat. He’s not a Democrat — he’s a moderate Republican,” Mayer said. “The question is, What electoral history is there of a moderate Republican winning Ohio?”
“John McCain was a moderate Republican, and he lost Ohio. Mitt Romney was a moderate Republican, and he lost Ohio. Bob Dole was a moderate Republican, and he lost Ohio. George H.W. Bush was a moderate Republican, and he lost Ohio,” Mayer continued.
“George W. Bush ran as a conservative and was more conservative than all four of those guys — and he barely won Ohio both times,” Mayer said. “Reagan won Ohio both times.”
“It’s more likely that a more conservative candidate is going to do better in Ohio in a presidential year than a moderate like Kasich,” he concluded.
Kasich’s landslide 2014 re-election win, another central piece of his 2016 pitch, came after his Democrat challenger quit campaigning in August.