John Kasich has dreamed of being president for a long, long time. The Lord he keeps beseeching to make his purpose in life clear has obviously decided that Donald Trump should be president, not the petulant one from Mckees Rocks, PA, who got thumped this year as badly as any of the sweet 16 who thought Trump would stumble and fall.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the GOP nomination and the White House. The New York billionaire who drummed his GOP rivals out of the race one after another, now appears to be looking past his immediate pool of loyalists to fill top-notch positions following his stunning victory on Nov. 8. As President-elect Trump peers past his mishmash of nominees who may not be acceptable enough to fill important offices he now has control over, he might want to give another look to one Buckeye who’s already signaled he’s ready to be in the big leagues again.
From his first days in the Republican race for president this year, Gov. Kasich tried to set himself apart from the Donald and other challengers by calling attention to his Washington resume, built over 18 years spent in the U.S. House where he was raptured up to chairman of the House Budget Committee in his last years on The Hill. He tried in vain to carve out a niche as “the adult in the room” in a campaign where voters wanted not an adult but an uncompromising head hunter who would bag the Democrats’ prized but endangered leader, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
John Kasich was always short of money but long on entertainment value. Beltway media never really took him seriously but enjoyed the entertainment value he brought to Sunday talk shows looking for master spinmeisters to spice up their coverage. Having Kasich on as a guest was guaranteed to produce some quotable quote that sounded great even if it made no sense.
It came to pass that John Kasich finally bowed out of the race in early May, long past when pundits of repute thought he should have stayed in to begin with after losing 49 state races and winning only one, Ohio, where he couldn’t break the 50-percent threshold even though water boys for Kasich regularly said called him a popular governor. When the national contest finally narrowed to Trump versus Clinton, Trump ended up trouncing Hillary in Ohio by nearly nine points, showing to the chagrin of Democrats how red Ohio can be despite voting twice for Barack Obama.
In his post-withdrawal days, Gov. Kasich was essentially in the “Never-Trump” class, as he repeatedly dissed the Donald, eventually casting his vote for Arizona Sen. John McCain. Even others close to him, including political buddy Sen. Rob Portman and Kasich’s hand-picked man to lead the Ohio Republican Party, Matt Borges, came home to the Donald when it counted.
In recent days, two Ohio Congressman, Bill Johnson and Jim Renacci, have had their names floated as possible office holders for President-elect Trump. Ken Blackwell, a former Ohio secretary of state whose work in 2004 to deliver the state to George W. Bush instead of John Kerry produced a national black eye many still remember, has made a trip to Trump Tower to kiss the Donald’s ring. Even Mitt Romney, who railed against Trump in no uncertain terms, is also ready to meet with the Donald to discuss whether he’s a good fit for Secretary of State. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who has no qualifications for chief diplomat, is likewise being given an audience with Trump.
With two years left in his second term as governor, it’s no surprise that Kasich would rather be somewhere else. He spent more than 100 days out of state on the campaign trail, and regularly makes out of state trips to campaign for fellow Republicans or push issues like a federal balanced budget amendment that have no chance of becoming reality in his lifetime. When he’s not out of state, he avoids Ohio media that might dare ask him thorny questions he doesn’t want to answer.
Donald Trump loved to berate Kasich for how bad he was beaten, calling him a non-factor and irrelevant. But that was then. The Donald should rethink pardoning the 64-year old hard-right governor if Ohio who’s popularity has dipped into the 40s. Gov. Kasich’s next labor is to advance his last state budget to a super-majority GOP legislature, that has enough votes to override him on issues it might not have had the political will to do before, when he needed their help, and the help of Borges at the helm of the state party, to win him an all-important second term without which his case to run for president would have been nonexistent.
The Trump White House should reconsider letting Kasich out of the dog house he put himself into with his anti-Trump rhetoric and his acts of disobedience that included not even showing up in Cleveland to welcome Republicans to his state. Kasich yearns to get back to DC, where the action will be. Trump the terrible can show his magnanimity to Ohio’s leader by adding his name to a list of possible appointees for high-end administrative posts. Kasich has CEO fever, for sure, after being the state’s top leader, so being an at-will employee for the Donald won’t ring his chimes. But it could be better than being a nowhere man once he’s out of office in two years.
Elevating Kasich to DC again would enable his Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor to take over the reigns of governor, giving her a boost on the next election in two years, when she’ll have to battle against one well-funded Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, and a moderate charmer like Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Kasich wins in a couple of ways, first by landing a new high-profile job, and second by mauling Husted and DeWine in advance. If Taylor should win, she’ll not only be the first woman elected governor, but her election will represent a third term for Kasich, in the same way Clinton’s campaign this year was said to be a third term for President Obama had she won.
Ohio will turn red again in two years, but the red will come from Republicans shedding their own blood in an internecine battle that could further exacerbate tears and fractures in the party, and maybe, just maybe, give Democrats an opening to exploit.
So, please forgive John Kasich, Dear Leader Donald, for even though he knew what he did by dissing you, he could be a useful tool in an administration that will take the nation backward instead of forward. He’s done it in Ohio, so he can do it for you, too.