Commentary: Can Kasich Help GOP Voters Uneasy About Trump Vote For A Democrat?

Jul 29, 2020

Four years ago, then-Ohio Gov. John Kasich was technically the host of the Republican National Convention since it was taking place in downtown Cleveland, part of his home state.

But he absolutely refused to set foot inside the Cleveland convention venue, Quicken Loans Arena, which has since been re-named Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.

Kasich, in his second term as governor, was the last challenger to Donald Trump still standing, even though he was nowhere near close enough to Trump to deny him the nomination. But Kasich didn't then – and has not yet – conceded the battle for the nomination to Trump.

Ordinarily, the host governor, no matter what his or her party affiliation, will make one of the first speeches from the podium, welcoming the assembled delegates, alternates, money-bag mega-donors and assorted hangers-on to the great state of Ohio, home of the world's finest tomatoes and sweet corn and the Mother of Presidents.

Kasich couldn't even manage that.

He clearly loathed the former reality TV star who had ended his presidential ambitions; he could not bear to stand and watch the likes of Trump – whom he considered a crude, racist demagogue – to become the Republican's party's standard-bearer for president.

Four years later, his opinion of Trump hasn't changed. In fact, today, it is set in cement.

And that explains why, for the past couple of weeks, word has been trickling out that Kasich will address the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. The Democratic National Convention staff is telling delegates to stay home because of continuing fear of large crowds sparking a breakout of COVID-19 emanating from Wisconsin.

Kasich, the story goes, will address the delegates on the subject of the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden. He is expected to endorse the Democrat for president over Trump, whose own plans to hold large gatherings of the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, Fla., have been dashed by Florida's major problem with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kasich can be counted on to argue that Trump has been an abysmal failure as president and has not earned a second term from the people to whom he promised so much four years ago.

The Biden campaign has yet to confirm or deny the reports that Kasich has been invited to speak to a national TV audience during the Democratic National Convention. But there are plenty of good reasons why Biden's campaign might want that. The major reason is that there are clearly many Republicans voters, particularly suburban women, who are having major buyer's remorse over voting for Trump in 2016.

Those GOP voters – the ones who have grown weary of the chaos in the White House – could well be persuaded to vote for Biden.

It reminds me of 2004, when the re-election campaign of President George W. Bush invited a conservative Democratic senator from Georgia, Zell Miller, to speak at the Republican National Committee in New York City against Democratic nominee John Kerry and in favor of a second term for Bush.

"Like Zell Miller was for Bush, there's every reason to believe that Kasich could be a good figurehead for Republican voters who are really wavering when it comes to voting for Trump again,'' said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a weekly politics newsletter published by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"Why not have Kasich on the list of speakers?''  Kondik said. "The idea of Kasich at the Democratic convention is getting some pushback from liberals in the party, but really there is no good reason not to let him speak."

David Niven, a professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati, said that "part of what enables John Kasich to do something like this is that he has nothing to lose. And it's conceivable that a President Biden might consider a Republican like Kasich for a cabinet position.

"What the Democrats would be doing by letting Kasich speak,'' Niven said, "is allowing him to give permission to those wavering Republicans out there to do what they want to do in the first place – vote for Joe Biden."

Credit Jim Nolan / WVXU

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