“For all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these, ‘It might have been!’” wrote the poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
I’m thinking that line is appropriate regarding the presidential campaign of Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Perhaps some Republican party types are thinking that as well. If not, they may be after November.
After winning his home state of Ohio, Kasich is now the last candidate standing between the nomination and Donald Trump or Sen. Ted Cruz – candidates many Republicans, particularly those in the establishment, can’t accept (Trump) or don’t like personally (Cruz).
Despite that victory, Kasich is now mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination. At best, he can win enough delegates to deny Trump a majority, leading to a contested convention when Republicans gather in Cleveland in July. And then, the theory is, maybe he can emerge as a consensus candidate. It’s possible, but it’s a long shot.
Yeah, I voted for Kasich – I and 15,304 other Arkansans, or 3.72 percent of Republican primary voters.
I did that because I believed he’s the most experienced, qualified candidate with the best record. He was chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 1990s, the last time Congress came close to balancing the budget, and then he became governor of Ohio and led the state in turning that state’s deficit into a surplus. No other candidate, Republican or Democrat, can say anything like that.
I also voted for him because of his common decency, a quality that has been unfortunately uncommon in this ugly election year. More than any other candidate, he has avoided disparaging others and has offered a positive, unifying vision for the country.
If Republicans really want to win the election and deny Hillary Clinton the presidency, Kasich should be their first choice. An average of polls by the website Real Clear Politics shows, in hypothetical match-ups, Clinton beating Trump by more than six points, while Cruz is leading Clinton by .8 of a point, a statistical tie. Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race after losing his home state of Florida, was leading her by four points. Kasich, however, is beating her by more than seven points.
Those are national averages, but the United States does not actually have national elections. Instead, it has 51 state ones counting the District of Columbia, and of those, only a few are competitive, including Ohio, which has 18 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win. No Republican has ever been elected president without winning Ohio. Kasich is beating Clinton there by an average of almost 18 points.
Also really important is Pennsylvania, with 20 electoral votes. It’s voted Democratic in each of the last six elections, but some have been close. According to a recent Mercyhurst University poll, Kasich was trouncing Clinton 49-36 there. Meanwhile, she was beating Cruz 45-42 and Trump 43-35.
A Republican who wins both Ohio and Pennsylvania would be your next president.
Unfortunately, leading Arkansas Republicans did not bet on this horse. Thirty legislators endorsed Rubio. Gov. Asa Hutchinson did, too, during that brief period after Jeb Bush dropped out and Rubio became the darling of the establishment.
Hutchinson chose the candidate who seemed to have the best chance of beating Trump, despite Hutchinson’s having a lot in common with Kasich, including serving together in the U.S. House of Representatives and both accepting Medicaid expansion dollars under Obamacare as governors. Rather than refuse the money, Arkansas created the private option, which Hutchinson wants to continue as a program he is calling Arkansas Works.
Another 18 legislators and Secretary of State Mark Martin publicly endorsed Cruz Feb. 24.
If Hutchinson or anybody else instead had come out swinging for Kasich, it wouldn’t have made much difference. Voters don’t base their decisions on endorsements by elected officials – or newspaper columnists, thank goodness. Still, no Republican legislators or state officials endorsed the candidate who balances budgets, reaches across the aisle, and has the best chance of winning the general election. That’s notable, I guess.
Kasich and some of his supporters are still holding out hope that something crazy will happen at the convention. Maybe something will, but more than likely, they and some other Republicans will be left wondering what might have been. Actually, what should have been.