The Corner

Politics & Policy

Will John Kasich Criticize Donald Trump Tonight or Run Interference for Him?

At long last, we are closing in on a small enough debate stage — tonight’s Republican debate in Detroit (showing at 9 p.m. Eastern on Fox News) will have only the four remaining candidates — to get some real in-depth fireworks without the somnolent, meditative presence of Ben Carson. But the wild card is still John Kasich. We know Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz will come loaded for bear to fight Donald Trump again, as they did so vividly in the last debate. But every time Wolf Blitzer threw things over to Kasich, he stopped the attacks on Trump dead in their tracks. Even as late as this afternoon, he was complaining about other candidates hitting Trump with more than platitudes.

Given that Kasich is skipping most of the states and openly running just to deal Ohio’s delegates at a brokered convention, it raises the rather serious question of whether he is still holding out hope of cutting a deal with Trump, or perhaps already has. You’ll recall that Chris Christie bypassed multiple opportunities to go after Trump, only to endorse him later on. And that, in turn has to be a serious concern for Rubio and Cruz if they are considering cutting a “strategic voting” deal with Kasich: that an agreement to ask their supporters to vote for Kasich would end up with him taking Ohio’s delegates and then trading them to Trump.

Cruz and Rubio plainly both still believe that they have a shot at the nomination and can be the last non-Trump candidate standing, rallying everyone who wants to save the party. Each has won enough votes and raised enough money to see this as a credible prospect. Kasich cannot possibly believe such a thing is in the cards for him after finishing behind Carson nine times and in single digits in twelve out of 15 states (he’s polling dead last in Michigan as well). But nobody seems to have even a vaguely plausible idea of what is motivating him to soldier on, or to whom he might listen to reconsider. You would think that if he can be bought off, even with the offer of a vice-presidential nomination, Rubio and/or Cruz would have contacted him to discuss that by now. Which raises the very legitimate question of whether his ulterior motive is that he considers a Trump nomination to be, at a minimum, not much worse than a Cruz or Rubio nomination, and perhaps even something with which he is willing to do business to make happen.

If Kasich again refuses to take part in hitting Trump tonight — and especially if he criticizes the other candidates for doing so — it is entirely fair to question what his real motivations are.

Dan McLaughlin is an attorney practicing securities and commercial litigation in New York City, and a contributing columnist at National Review Online.

Most Popular

U.S.

How to Bend the News

This, from ABC, is a nice example of a news organization deliberately bending the truth in order to advance a narrative that it wishes were true but is not: Venerable gun manufacturer Colt says it will stop producing the AR-15, among other rifles, for the consumer market in the wake of many recent mass ... Read More
U.S.

Trump’s Total Culture War

 Donald Trump is waging a nonstop, all-encompassing war against progressive culture, in magnitude analogous to what 19th-century Germans once called a Kulturkampf. As a result, not even former president George W. Bush has incurred the degree of hatred from the left that is now directed at Trump. For most of ... Read More
World

Iran’s Act of War

Last weekend’s drone raid on the Saudi oil fields, along with the Israeli elections, opens a new chapter in Middle Eastern relations. Whether the attack on Saudi oil production, which has temporarily stopped more than half of it, was launched by Iranian-sponsored Yemeni Houthis or by the Iranians themselves is ... Read More
Education

George Packer Gets Mugged by Reality

Few journalists are as respected by, and respectable to, liberals as The Atlantic’s George Packer. The author of The Assassin's Gate (2005), The Unwinding (2013), and a recently published biography of Richard Holbrooke, Our Man, Packer has written for bastions of liberal thought from the New York Times Magazine ... Read More