The Washington Post examines the effort to find and field a third major candidate:

An obvious possible contestant is Kasich, who portrayed himself in the GOP primaries as a pragmatist with crossover appeal. Since he dropped out, Romney and other Republicans have tried to persuade him to forge an independent run.

But Kasich’s advisers dismissed the idea. “The governor is not entertaining nor will he run as an independent,” spokesman Chris Schrimpf said.

John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist, said of the governor’s courters: “They had plenty of time and opportunity to influence the [GOP] nomination battle in a constructive way, and they didn’t for whatever reason. The idea of running someone as a third party, particularly the way they’re going about it, is not going to be effective and is not practical.”

Has anyone explained to him there is potentially a lot of free food involved?

Alas, it appears that Kasich is not interested. It’s a fine time for him to be completely uninterested in a pointless and futile campaign. While I don’t think his presence in the race was ultimately responsible for the outcome, it conceivably could have been. His strong showing in New Hampshire came at the expense of others, and I can imagine some chain reactions that would have changed things considerably (though most would not have, given the givens).

Next to Bob Gates, his was the strongest name I had considered for the a third-party run. He’s conservative enough that he could have picked up a fair number of extant Republicans who simply can’t stand Trump. Though a lot of conservatives were rubbed raw by his acceptance of the Medicaid Expansion, most of the #NeverTrump people I know were willing to bite the bullet for him in the primary, if necessary, and I suspect they would in the general as well. But he’s also done the whole Apostate Republican thing to have credibility with some free agents who really dislike Hillary Clinton, too. And he occupies an ideological lane not entirely different from Trump’s, to whatever extent ideology matters.

The point here would not be to win, because that would be impossible. It wouldn’t even be to throw the election to the House of Representatives, because that’s likely impossible as well. The goals would be to either (a) take enough of the vote, disproportionately from Trump, to have a tangible effect in the outcome, (b) give extant Republicans a place to park their vote and wait for things to gear up in 2020, and (c) give Republicans in vulnerable districts an “out” where they can endorse someone other than Trump without endorsing Hillary. Even some of those that have supporter “the nominee” would have an excuse to back away, though state parties are scrambling to close the door on that. Kasich would be in a good position to do all of these things in a way that few others are.

The most important number is 15%. Not as a total vote-share, but in polling. If you can get 15%*, then you get in the debates and you remain a potent force. You may not get 15% or 10% on election day, but in this election you should be able to beat John Anderson’s 6.6% and throw a few states. Possibly win one or two, for the right candidate. Kasich would not likely win any states, but would have an easier time getting to the 15%. Mitt Romney would be able to win at least one state and some have suggested as many as five or six, but would have a hard time getting to 15%.

Besides Kasich, most of the other names that come up are either too big or too small. By “too small” I mean that they lack a profile or much of any name recognition. Ben Sasse falls into this category, as do most of the other Republicans that have been more vocally anti-Trump. By “too big” I mean that they have too little to gain and too much to lose. Think Paul Ryan. And some, like Nikki Haley, have a fair amount to gain but a lot of potential to lose. Bob Gates is the only other name I’ve heard that makes sense and occupies largely the same place, but he has no history as a candidate.

Kasich, on the other hand, is just the right combination of things. He has no real future in elective politics. If he had a motivation for running for president, it was to enter the history books. This would help! But mysterious are the ways of John Kasich, and he says “no.”

Category: Statehouse

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