Back in July of 2015, OregonCatalyst asked a group of us to rank the Republican presidential candidates based on a) their likelihood of winning the Republican nomination and b) their likelihood of winning the general election. For those who want to wade back into history to check my abilities as a prognosticator, don’t bother, I was terrible. I had Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) at the top and Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) near the bottom. In my defense, it was a prediction of their likely success and not a preference as to who I thought would make a great president – the two are seldom the same. At the same time I prepared a list of four who I thought would make a great president – Carly Fiorina, Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Gov. Walker. With the exception of Mr. Rubio who allowed himself to be suckered into channeling Don Rickles, the others remain eminently qualified to be a great president. (As Mr. Rubio descended into the ranks of those who assumed that the path to success was to eviscerate your opponents through personal attacks – the Clintons’ “politics of personal destruction” he lost his credibility. He also demonstrated that his sense of humor leans toward humiliation of others rather than self-deprecation – the former being a trait of President Barack Obama that disqualifies him as any type of leader.)
Which brings us to Mr. Kasich. He is the last man standing of my original four. At that time I wrote of Mr. Kasich:
“John Kasich – Extraordinarily accomplished, first as a member of Congress and then as Governor of Ohio. He has all the tools and temperament to be a great president.”
I should have added that Mr. Kasich has a quick wit – a “twinkle-in-the-eye” sort of self-deprecating sense of humor that causes first a smile, and then recognition that there is a lesson to be learned in the joke. It is a trait that reflects a genuineness of character rather than a contrivance (ala Hillary Clinton). He, like President Ronald Reagan, is a nice guy, but tough as nails when it comes to getting things done.
This column could be about the significant accomplishments of Mr. Kasich, first as a congressman and then as a governor, but his campaign has detailed them sufficiently. And while Mr. Kasich has talked about them, sometimes ad nauseam, the real point is that the accomplishments are real and numerous and demonstrate a person who has mastered the art of political governance.
This column could also be about the “favorability” ratings for Mr. Kasich, which compared to Mr. Trump and Ms. Clinton (both at historic lows) and Mr. Cruz (currently racing Mr. Trump to the bottom) would demonstrate he would be a runaway favorite in the general election. But others, principally the national pollsters, already recite these statistics every evening on television.
But this column is really about the path to the nomination for Mr. Kasich. And it leads directly through Mr. Trump.
As it stands now, and will be made more clear after Tuesday’s primary vote in New York, Mr. Trump has a mathematical path forward to secure the Republican nomination. Despite that mathematical opportunity, it is also abundantly clear that virtually the entire leadership (elected and unelected) of the Republican Party oppose Mr. Trump and are prepared to do anything, including allying themselves with the contemptible Mr. Cruz – a sure loser to Ms. Clinton – to deny Mr. Trump the nomination. In doing so, that leadership demonstrates that retention of their power supersedes any consideration of the will of the voters, or even the goal of securing the presidency. You see if they fail to stop Mr. Trump, he becomes the titular head of the Republican Party and their positions of power are at risk. And if Mr. Trump were to win against a deeply flawed and probably indictable, Ms. Clinton, those leaders and their influence would disappear overnight. So lets not kid ourselves that the Republican leaders are not looking out for anybody’s interests other than their own.
However, the most likely scenario is that Mr. Trump arrives at the Republican convention with less than a majority – and Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich arrive with even less (although it also appears that Mr. Kasich may arrive with a surge in delegates while Mr. Cruz continues to loose to Mr. Trump in major states like New York and California). It is quite probable that the first vote will confirm this and the second vote, even though it results in a diminution of Mr. Trump’s support, will still leave the contemptible Mr. Cruz short of the nomination. Really, there is a reason that Mr. Cruz, at least to the date of this column, has been unable to secure the support of his Republican colleagues in the Senate. Even the senator Mr. Cruz touted as being his close ally, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in the immigration battle, turned his back on the contemptible Mr. Cruz and endorsed Mr. Trump.
But even the failure of Mr. Cruz on the second ballot cannot signal Mr. Kasich’s path to the nomination without Mr. Trump. It is true that once Mr. Cruz is given his chance and fails on the second ballot, his chances for ultimate success are practically nil – he has a “one and done” chance. If both Mr. Trump and Mr. Cruz continue to demand allegiance from their delegates, it is virtually impossible for anyone to reach a majority.
It is at this point, that Mr. Trump has an opportunity, uniquely his, to secure a place in political history and to correct some cancerous errors in the political process. Mr. Trump, like Mr. Obama, will not like being President. After the applause dies down and the hard work of governing descends on him, Mr. Trump will tire of the never ending battle with the egos in the Congress and inherent dishonesty amongst many of our “allies” on the international stage. He is not made for this – he is made for solving problems in spite of the inaction of politicians. The “art of the deal” contemplates finding a solution that is to the financial benefit of all at the table. Finding a solution amongst politicians is the equivalent of trying to find a common point amongst a group of people who perceive that winning is achieved only when someone else looses – and the more public the loss, the better it is.
It is at this point that Mr. Trump can rise and acknowledge that he has so disturbed the political class that they have denied him the nomination and that the delegates need to move on to other candidates – but not Mr. Cruz. Not Lyin’ Ted as Mr. Trump has labeled Mr. Cruz. Not a candidate that will, by every poll taken, lose to the corrupt Ms. Clinton. Not a candidate that will allow the Clinton crime family to continue amassing wealth by selling favors from the government. Not a candidate the will continue to bury the corruption of the Obama administration. And not a candidate that will allow the stalemate in Washington to continue. He can and should throw his support to Mr. Kasich.
But Mr. Trump’s support should come with publicly stated demands. And these demands should be for the long-term benefit of the voters – not for the politicians. They should be brief, but significant. And here are the three conditions I would suggest:
- The appointment of Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) as Attorney General with the charge to pursue Hillary Clinton (and her husband and daughter) to determine whether they engaged in a criminal enterprise during her service as Secretary of State (including activities thereafter relating to the handling and destruction of State Department communications). It should include the commitment to pursue the issue through indictment and trial where the facts support indictment. And it should include a demand for prison time and restitution by the Clintons, their foundation and their allies who have benefited for their actions. (It should also include actions necessary – including impeachment – to eliminate future taxpayer funded payments, including pensions and allowances, for both Mr. and Ms. Clinton). The reason that this is so harsh is to deliver a message that even the rich and politically powerful are not immune from the law – it is to restore faith of citizens of a real democratic government – not an oligarchy posing as a democracy. For that reason there should be no pardon or appeal until restitution is made and a substantial portion of their prison sentences have been served.
- An additional charge to Mr. Christie to resolve the allegations of corruption in the Obama administration. Everything from the events surrounding the Benghazi terrorist raid, to the gun-running activities and refusal to enforce the Voting Rights act against groups because of the color of their skin by former Attorney General Eric Holder (D), to the IRS corruption regarding selective enforcement and breach of privacy through delivery of taxpayer information to unauthorized personnel, and all the way to the withholding from Congress the pertinent information relating to the known but undisclosed costs of Obamacare. It should also include an investigation of the massive amounts of waste and fraud (and the probable criminal conduct by those involved) in implementing Obamacare – for instance the $248 Million by Oregon on an online exchange that failed to register a single person. Such an investigation should include restitution both personal and institutional of taxpayer funds wasted.
- And finally, a reformation of the Republican primary election process to ensure that the voters, not the party insiders, will control the nomination process regardless of where it may lead. There should never be a system that, like Colorado, permits the selection of delegates without a popular vote. There should never be a system like the Iowa caucuses that rewards the ability to organize the minority of party activists over the sentiment of the registered voters. A possible solution would be to require all states to use the popular vote in each congressional district to determine the outcome. The winner by district would determine the actual delegate so that the Republican leadership could not put ringers in place of candidate loyalists. I am unimpressed with the argument that each state Republican organization should be able to choose its format – this is the primary for a national election. Allowing the privileged few to make determinations that effect all is simply undemocratic.
That’s it. Those three things that cover the major “sores” from which Mr. Trump has picked the “scabs.” Corruption in government and a stacked nomination process.
Okay, it doesn’t address the problem of border security. It doesn’t need to because there is virtually no significant difference amongst the Republican candidates on this – demonstrably secure the border before there is any discussion relating to immigration reform and the status of those illegally here – or any of the other major issues: national defense, Islamic terrorism, economic recovery, Obamacare, etc..
It is an opportunity that is not available to Mr. Cruz – not that he would ever take it because he has been running for President since he reached puberty and failure to achieve it would relegate him to the coal bin of history. (Not so with Mr. Trump who is already a phenom because of business and entertainment successes.) More importantly, even if Mr. Cruz did it, it would so enrage the Trump supporters that “the insiders” won again that they would leave the convention and probably leave the party. But if Mr. Trump would do it most of his supporters would embrace his decision and support Mr. Kasich in the general election.
Because Mr. Cruz’s popularity is superficial at best, their acceptance and support of Mr. Kasich would be almost universal and enthusiastic.
The big question is whether Mr. Trump’s ego will permit him to claim institutional victory and the decisive role in ensuring the election of the next Republican president. I’m not holding my breath but there is a better chance that Mr. Trump will act for the benefit of the voters, than for either Mr. Cruz or the Republican leadership to do so.