Republicans can forget about campaigning against Obamacare in 2016 if Ohio Gov. John Kasich is on the party’s presidential ticket.
Conventional wisdom says Kasich will need to explain his Obamacare Medicaid expansion to Republican primary voters — but he’s been explaining it for two years.
That’s the problem: most of Kasich’s arguments for Medicaid coverage for working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities sound like they were written by Democratic strategists.
The longer Kasich is in the presidential race, the greater the potential for Democrats to capitalize on Kasich’s promotion of Obamacare.
“What we’ve seen as a result of this? Saved lives, there’s no question about it,” Kasich said when asked about Obamacare expansion at an Ohio Chamber of Commerce event.
“Turning down your money back to Montana on an ideological basis when people can lose their lives because they get no help doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Kasich growled at an Obamacare skeptic in Montana.
If Kasich is the Republican nominee for president or vice president, expect to see Democratic campaign ads using Kasich’s tortured talking points against Obamacare critics.
In short, Kasich has worked to turn his own primary election problem into a general election problem for every Republican candidate.
Erick Erickson, an Atlanta talk radio host, Fox News contributor and editor-in-chief of RedState.com, sees nominating Kasich as a sure-fire way to compound cynicism in the Republican base.
“I think if Kasich is on the ticket for the GOP, in addition to demoralizing the base given his past statements, it makes it highly unlikely we’ll see a sincere effort to get rid of Obamacare,” Erickson told Ohio Watchdog.
Apart from his rhetoric, what actions has Kasich taken to support Obamacare?
The governor told the Ohio General Assembly to implement the law’s Medicaid expansion in 2013. When the Legislature voted against it, Kasich expanded Medicaid anyway.
Six Republicans from the Ohio House sued the Kasich administration in response; while their case was pending, Kasich shrugged them off as “people on the outside” during a national Fox News interview.
Months later, an Ohio Republican Party field director’s wife decided to run against one of the House members from the lawsuit. Three of the other plaintiffs found themselves without ORP’s re-election endorsement.
At home, Kasich enjoys the protective bubble of a party led by hand-picked allies and a legacy press that adores his embrace of Obamacare.
But the issue will hamstring Kasich’s presidential run and should put off any Republican who sees him as a viable running mate, said Washington Examiner managing editor Philip Klein.
“If Kasich were on the GOP ticket, it would kill the Republicans’ chances of winning in 2016,” Klein told Ohio Watchdog.
Klein, whose book “Overcoming Obamacare” reviewed Republican options for health care reform, thinks “articulating a true free market alternative” will be crucial for Republicans in 2016.
“Opposition to Obamacare was responsible for giving Republicans control of the House and Senate,” he said. “But in 2012, they couldn’t run against Obamacare because the Republican nominee — Mitt Romney — had implemented a similar program in Massachusetts.”
“Like Romney, John Kasich as nominee would neutralize the health care issue,” Klein continued, adding that an unlikely Kasich victory “would further enshrine Obamacare.”
Either way, having Kasich on the Republican ticket next year would be a win for President Obama’s unpopular health insurance law.
“As far as health care is concerned, a vote for Kasich is a vote for Obama’s third term,” Klein concluded.