Forgotten Man: Why John Kasich Is Still Relevant in the 2016 Presidential Election

Bradley Klustner ’18 – Inside Politics participant

Even the most casual American political enthusiast would be able to tell you that the 2016 Presidential Election has been one of the most interesting, enigmatic, and polarizing in our nation’s history. The Republican Primary, at one point containing as many as 17 candidates, has been whittled down to three. While most of the media spotlight is focused on frontrunner Donald Trump and his perpetual feuds with Ted Cruz, John Kasich has insisted on staying in the race, cementing himself in the role of the “grown-up” in the Republican Primary, refusing to participate in the common barking matches that break out during the televised debates, and carrying himself with a calm, experienced, and qualified demeanor.

At this point in the primary, many anti-Trump analysts from the Republican establishment are criticizing Kasich for not dropping out, claiming that his staying in the race is only stealing votes away from Ted Cruz who, mathematically, is the only candidate besides Trump who could win the 1,237 delegates needed to gain the GOP nomination outright. However, another strategy could prove more favorable for the GOP in order to win the general election versus Hillary Clinton, one that justifies Kasich’s insistence to keep his campaign going. According to a March 24th article in Politico, when Kasich is matched up against Clinton in a hypothetical general election, 45% of registered voters nationwide said they would pledge a vote towards Kasich, compared to 39% for Hillary. The Politico article continued to state that when Cruz and Trump went head to head with Clinton in the same scenario, they lost the general election by 5-10 percentage points, respectively.

What might explain these polling results? For one, Kasich is a candidate who has a proven track record in the state of Ohio, especially economically where he helped grow private sector jobs by 9.3%. He consistently emphasizes a bipartisan approach to policymaking, offering a more moderate alternative to the often-polarizing conservative policies promoted by Cruz and Trump. Kasich’s centrist approach is appealing to the voters who are left skeptical of Hillary Clinton but are turned off by the hijinks of the Trump campaign.

At this point, it is not mathematically possible for Kasich to secure enough delegates to win the GOP nomination outright. However, if Kasich and Cruz “steal” enough delegates from Trump by either winning or performing well in the remaining state primaries, a brokered Republican convention could be forced. If this scenario occurs and the GOP decides on Kasich as their candidate, then the numbers stated above clearly show that Kasich has a strong chance of winning the general election.

Being myself a right-leaning moderate, this might sound to the average reader like simply overly optimistic hope for a miracle, and it is true that a lot of things need to happen in order for a brokered convention to take place. However, if Kasich can build up momentum after his victory in Ohio, and Cruz continues to dominate states here and there as he did in the Utah caucus on March 22nd, the possibility still remains that Trump will not garner the minimum number of delegates to snag the nomination.

Critics on the far-right will criticize Kasich, claiming he is a RINO (Republican in name only), too bipartisan, irrelevant, and just another face from the Republican establishment in an election that has been rooted in anti-establishment attitudes on both sides from day one. However, the numbers tell us a lot, and if the GOP wants to defeat Hillary Clinton, Kasich may very likely be their best choice.