Sunday, July 17, 2016

John Kasich's gamble

I've done a few press interviews today, and the hot question seems to be John Kasich.  The home state Governor is skipping the convention.  Yes, that's a big deal!

This is worth at least a quick note.  Kasich is making a big gamble, and it is worth revisiting my past comments about the Kasich campaign, which were... less than kind.  Specifically, back in March, I compared his campaign to the business strategy of the South Park underpants gnomes. This was when his plan was to lose every state but his home state, and somehow turn that into the presidential nomination.  Yes, I was harsh, but I'll revisit that.

Now, he's making a more interesting move, and it is potentially a shrewd gamble.  Kasich is setting himself up as the would-be leader of the told-you-so faction of the Republican Party if Trump loses in November.  To do that, he is refusing to associate himself with The Donald.  The trick is that he needs to distance himself from Trump enough to avoid any taint of Trump's campaign without alienating Trump's followers who are, after all, the dominant faction among Republican primary voters.  So, avoid speaking at the convention, but don't go as far as Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), whose reelection platform seems to be that he is the Republican who calls Trump unfit for the presidency.

Two challenges.

1)  If Trump wins, Kasich is fucked.  Trump may have very little history with the Republican Party, but he has the memory of an elephant when it comes to slights.  He is still obsessed with a decades-old article from a defunct magazine that called him a "short-fingered vulgarian."  Trump won't forgive this if he wins.  PredictWise currently gives that a 30% chance of happening.

2)  Even if Trump loses, the default within the Republican Party has been to explain losses by saying that the candidate wasn't a true conservative.  With Trump, this would have the virtue of being true, if not necessarily causally relevant.  That wouldn't push the party in Kasich's direction, since Kasich has been seen as one of the more moderate Republicans.  Yes, it's a cliche for academics to say, "I wrote a paper about it," but I really did.  Here's the link.

So, yes, Kasich is making an interesting gamble.  Maybe it will work.

To revisit my... harsh critiques, though, none of this would have a chance of working if he hadn't approached 2016 the way he did.  Maybe he was capable of more long-term thinking than I gave him credit for.  And sometimes, prepositions are fun things to end sentences with.

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