Our convoluted primary system evolved to allow voters a more direct voice in choosing a candidate who can win a general election. Voters don’t always choose wisely — after all, one party always loses. It’s a shame then — in what should be a Republican year — that GOP primary voters appear to want to lose the presidency once again.
If the candidate at the top of the ticket is roundly defeated, the toll could also take down many Republicans running for the House and the Senate.
The latest polls show that only one Republican candidate has a sure chance of beating Hillary Clinton: John Kasich. Look at the latest RCP average of all polls, which shows the tally of each Republican candidate in a race against Hillary Clinton. Kasich comes in nearly eight points ahead of Clinton. When Trump is put up next to Clinton, polls show her winning by 9.3 points. Ted Cruz also loses to Clinton by a smaller amount, within the margin of error, but still Clinton wins.
The just-released NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, the most up-to-date information available, has Kasich defeating Clinton by 59 to 31!
Relying on other polls of the general election chances for the candidates going state-by-state, analysts like Nate Silver predict that Kasich is more than likely to come in second to Trump in states like New York and Maryland. He is also likely to come in second in some northeastern states in which primaries have not yet taken place. However, these polls reveal that in a general election, neither Cruz nor Trump would get these voters’ support, and some of them are likely to vote for Hillary Clinton if either becomes the GOP nominee.
Yes, it is possible for Ted Cruz to get the nomination, but betting on Cruz is risky. As the election heats up, count on the Democrats using social issues to defeat him — emphasizing Cruz’s position on abortion (no exceptions at all) and gay rights, which a majority of the public, including young Republicans, now support. They will hit hard on his proposed economic policies, from the proposed flat tax to a foreign policy seemingly meant to differentiate himself from the isolationist Ron Paul and the neo-conservative Marco Rubio. Count on Clinton making mincemeat of his call to deal with ISIS by carpet bombing.
Moreover, Clinton is actually closer to the neo-conservative position than many Republicans. On immigration, Cruz has sought to out-Trump Trump by committing to also building a wall on the Mexican border. Despite himself being Hispanic, he will obviously lose the growing Hispanic vote.
As for Kasich, I know all the arguments against supporting him: he is a liberal Democrat in disguise; he accepted Medicaid expansion in the state of Ohio; he will compromise with Democrats rather than fight them if president.
If you look at his record as governor, however, it is clear that he is not a liberal. A report in the Boston Globe puts it this way:
Kasich, in fact, is not as moderate as some voters might think. While he’s one of the few Republican governors to expand Medicaid under President Obama’s health care law and has said he supports a path for legalization for undocumented immigrants, the two-term governor has tried limiting the power of unions and enacted a series of anti-abortion measures.
No wonder the dean of liberal columnists, E.J. Dionne, wrote the following about him a few days ago:
The problem for Kasich involves his solutions. In his speech Tuesday, he proposed a balanced budget; a freeze on most federal regulations; tax cuts for individuals and businesses; sending “welfare, education, Medicaid, highway infrastructure and job training” programs back to the states; a guest worker program; and fixes to Social Security that would certainly involve some cuts.
In other words, Kasich supports the same agenda conservatives were offering in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. It’s an approach that even many in the GOP — particularly working-class Trump supporters — now see as inadequate, opting instead for a dangerous populism and a strong nationalist position. As Trump said yesterday, he favors an “America first” policy.
So those conservatives who continually attack Kasich for being a liberal and not a true conservative are either doing so because they are not aware of his record as governor of Ohio, or they are responding to his personality and ignoring what he believes and what he has accomplished in Ohio.
The question for Republicans comes down to this: Do Republican primary voters want the GOP to win or lose in November 2016? If the answer is “win,” their support should be thrown to Kasich at a contested convention. If they want the GOP to remain “pure,” they will support the most conservative candidate out there — Ted Cruz — even though he cannot win, despite being closer to Clinton in the Electoral College vote. If they choose the populist Trump, there will be a landslide for Hillary Clinton come Election Day.
Whatever happened to William F. Buckley’s admonition that one should support the most conservative candidate that is likely to win? Neither Trump nor Cruz fits that description.
So who do you really prefer — a John Kasich with faults you can easily cite that are quite real, but who could actually win, or Hillary Clinton? Republicans and conservatives should think clearly before they answer that.