Politics & Policy

Will John Kasich Hand Trump the Nomination?

(Scott Olson/Getty)

The best delegate trackers out there still think it likely that Donald Trump will fall short of the 1,237 delegates he needs to secure the GOP nomination on the first ballot.

But there’s one man who can cut a deal and instantly make Trump the de facto nominee: Ohio governor John Kasich. He would then probably be responsible for setting in motion devastating GOP losses in November of not only the White House but also control of the U.S. Senate.

Kasich himself claims there is “zero chance” he would sign on as Trump’s running mate as part of a deal to deliver his delegates for Trump. But Lyndon Johnson said the same thing before he became John F. Kennedy’s running mate, and so too did John Nance Garner before hitching up with FDR in 1932.

In addition, key Kasich allies are talking about a deal. Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe told the Enid News in Oklahoma today, “I support John Kasich not so that he could be president, but so that if Donald Trump becomes president, I would want Trump to use him as vice president because Kasich is one of the smartest guys I know.”

But Kasich insists he is running for president and nothing else, assuring supporters that at a contested convention delegates could turn to him as a compromise choice. But his campaign strategy is, well, unorthodox. Ed O’Keefe of the Washington Post says he has been “stunned” at the Kasich M.O. He told CBS’s Face the Nation today:

He could be running another gubernatorial style campaign this week in Pennsylvania, like he did up in New Hampshire and place second. He hasn’t been doing it. He could be doing that in Indiana. He could — he could have done it in Maryland. And over and over again we just see him bouncing around to all these different states, making a few appearances, instead of honing in on one or two places to actually get a win or pick up a big collection of delegates. He just hasn’t done it.

Indeed, Kasich himself almost seems bored and disengaged when the subject of actually winning the nomination comes up. “I mean, I don’t know all this other delegate stuff, because I don’t spend time on it,” he told the Washington Post in an interview last week. He actually asserted that he didn’t even know that it took 1,237 delegates to win the nomination, a figure that is almost tattooed on the memory banks of everyone involved in the GOP race.

#share#If Kasich isn’t clued in to the details of the Cleveland convention, his chief strategist John Weaver certainly is. Weaver, a moderate Republican who has described his party as “a bunch of cranks,” was spotted in deep discussions with Trump’s new delegate tracker, Paul Manafort, at the Republican National Committee meeting in Florida last week.

Kasich himself almost seems bored and disengaged when the subject of actually winning the nomination comes up.

No one doubts that Kasich would be a better fit than most for the shoot-from-the-hip Trump. As a two-term governor with experience on national-security issues from his days in Congress, Kasich would fill clear gaps in the Trump résumé. But at the same time, he shares some of Trump’s free-wheeling, politically incorrect style, so the two could probably be comfortable with each other. Jonathan Allen of Roll Call notes that Kasich comes from the key swing state of Ohio, and ‘his selection would signal to the establishment wing of the GOP and the general electorate that Trump is serious about governing.”

But while Kasich would certainly be a credible choice, the old adage that almost no voters cast ballots for a ticket based on who is running for No. 2 applies. Kasich might help a bit in Ohio, but Trump’s negative ratings (65 percent in the latest polls) have resulted in him trailing Hillary Clinton, 49 percent to 39 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of all recent polls. Ted Cruz, by contrast, trails Hillary, 45 percent to 43 percent, and Kasich has an eight-point edge.

#related#Ron Christie, a former Kasich aide, says he doesn’t think the Ohio governor will ultimately sign on to the S.S. Titanic, I mean, S.S. Trump. Kasich himself appears leery. “It takes a long time to change negatives,” Kasich told CBS’s Face the Nation today. “You can’t turn negatives around overnight. It’s not possible to do, because when you create that negative impression in people, you just can’t talk your way out of it, unfortunately, for those that have high negatives.”

Parties aren’t known in the modern era for nominating kamikaze presidential tickets (Barry Goldwater and George McGovern being ancient exceptions). Nominating Donald Trump would look like a case of assisted suicide. It would be best for both the Republican party and John Kasich’s legacy not to join Trump’s ticket in a dramatic suicide pact. The post-election recriminations over loss of the Senate and any chance to influence the direction of the Supreme Court would be ugly for both Trump and whoever his running mate would be.

— John Fund is National Review Online’s national-affairs correspondent.


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