Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges went ballistic this week after state treasurer Josh Mandel went off script and publicly endorsed Marco Rubio for president.
Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours in Iraq, wrote this week at the Daily Caller:
I originally got to know Marco through hours of windshield time criss-crossing Ohio, discussing family, football and foreign policy. I was impressed by his strategic and decisive approach to the complicated foreign policy challenges we face as well as his sound judgment and clear vision on how to protect America and advance American values. As a United States Senator serving on the Committee on Foreign Relations and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Marco has been a strong and thoughtful leader on the foreign policy and national security challenges facing our nation.
Plain Dealer reporter Henry Gomez, who generally treats Kasich with the
deference pandering due someone to whom one wants access on the presidential campaign trail, wrote this week:
Matt Borges was steaming…Borges, a top Kasich booster, couldn’t help himself. He texted one reporter airborne for Phoenix for the RNC meetings and called another back home to vent.
“The smart political move would be to wait and see if [Kasich] decides to get in,” Borges said. He added, in a sharp elbow at Mandel: “I don’t think that not having the support of a bit player is going to impact that decision one way or the other.”
Currently Ohio’s state treasurer, Mandel unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. senate against Democrat incumbent Sherrod Brown in 2012 and is popular with conservatives in the state. Though he endorsed Borges for chairman and Kasich for governor (and campaigned for him), this isn’t the first time Mandel has veered from the party line. He opposed Governor Kasich’s Medicaid expansion and has been a vocal opponent of Common Core, a policy that Kasich enthusiastically supports. Mandel, who may try again to run for senate, has also held the state’s feet to the fire by placing the state’s checkbook online with his Transparency Project. In retaliation for Mandel’s disloyalty, Kasich line-item vetoed technology funding for Mandel’s office. One doesn’t disagree with Ohio’s thin-skinned governor with impunity.
Though he’s still the chairman of the Ohio GOP, Matt Borges has been wearing a lot of different hats lately. In addition to his duties as chairman, Borges is a member of the RNC Debate Committee. He’s also a top cheerleader for Kasich’s presidential aspirations. “I hope he runs. He would make a great candidate; he would make a great president,” Borges said during an Ohio Newspaper Association conference event in Columbus earlier this year.
Borges’s reaction to Mandel’s endorsement of Rubio this week not only demonstrated how easy it is to ruffle Team Kasich’s feathers, but it also served as a shot across the bow to other Ohio Republicans. The Ohio Republican Party represents Kasich now, not the rest of the state’s Republican elected leaders. They’ve been warned that if they don’t endorse Kasich’s impending presidential campaign, they will be attacked publicly. This governor demands allegiance.
Borges recently told a group of Republican women that the Fox News debate in Cleveland in August would be the first opportunity to start to pare down the field. He said candidates like Donald Trump and John Bolton would be easy cuts, but others, like Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson would be more difficult. “Is it good for our party to cut out the one woman and the one minority candidate and then have ten white guys standing up on stage? I don’t think so,” Borges said at a recent Ohio Federation of Republican Women meeting. (Hispanic = white according to the debate committee? Interesting.)
Borges and others on the debate committee are going to have a difficult time justifying the Ohio governor’s inclusion in the debate, should he decide to run, but you can bet they are going to try. The argument will be that Ohio is the most important swing state in the nation and the party would be committing political suicide by excluding the only candidate who can win Ohio. Or something. But according to the RCP average, Kasich is currently polling at 2%, far behind “the one minority candidate” Ben Carson, who is at 7.8% (Fiorna is trailing both at 1.3%).
In the end, the decision about whom to include in the debates will not be made based on mathematical calculations, but on RNC machinations — or so it seems. Kasich has a powerful ally on the debate committee in Borges. And in the meantime, woe to any Ohio Republicans who don’t fall in line and kiss the ring of King John.