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Sunday, October 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — Republicans won’t win the presidency in 2016 without making inroads in the Midwest. Happily for the GOP, two Midwestern governors are running for their party’s nomination.

Both won re-election in 2014. The one from the state with more electoral votes won with 64 percent of the vote with wide appeal to Democrats and independents. The one from the smaller state got just 52 percent of the vote after a divisive campaign.

The former fought to have his state accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. He made his case on moral grounds, arguing that at heaven’s door, St. Peter is “probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.”

The latter adamantly opposed expanding Medicaid under the ACA, and his speeches are compendiums of every right-wing bromide party activists demand. “We need a president who — on the first day in office — will call on Congress to pass a full repeal of Obamacare,” this hopeful declared when he announced his candidacy last week. “Next, we need to rein in the federal government’s out-of-control regulations that are like a wet blanket on the economy.” And on he went.

Now: Guess which one is seen as a top contender, and which is dismissed as the darkest of dark horses? Which one was running third behind only Jeb Bush and Donald Trump in the Real Clear Politics poll average as of last Friday, and which one was in 12th place with all of 1.5 percent?

You have no doubt figured out that I’m talking about John Kasich of Ohio, who announces his candidacy on Tuesday, and Scott Walker of Wisconsin. It’s telling about the contemporary Republican Party: Kasich would probably be the better bet in the general election but barely registers in the surveys, while Walker has the better chance of winning the nomination.

It’s preposterous to see Kasich as anything but a conservative. He was a drill sergeant for Newt Gingrich’s Republican Revolution in the 1990s. When Kasich was chairman of the House Budget Committee, 60 Minutes produced a segment about him titled “The Axman Cometh.” As governor, Kasich pushed big tax cuts that included repealing the estate tax. (The Republican obsession with protecting large fortunes is beyond me.) He also took on the unions with what was known as Senate Bill 5 to end collective bargaining for public employees.

And it’s on the labor question that the Kasich and Walker stories diverge, in large part because of the accident of state election laws. In Ohio, the unions could put Bill 5 directly to the voters, and they repealed it in 2011 by a 61-to-39 percent landslide. A chastened Kasich recalibrated.

Walker is best known for a very similar attack on public employee unions, but Wisconsin had no provision for a comparable referendum. The unions felt they had no choice but to organize a recall of Walker. Voters typically don’t take well to recalls that aren’t a reaction to outright skullduggery and corruption. Walker prevailed, and he’s been bragging about busting unions and surviving ever since. Conservatives love him for it.

Kasich, by contrast, reached out to his previous enemies. When he was endorsed by the Carpenters Union last year, Kasich said: “For too long, there’s been a disconnect between people like me and organized labor.” Walker is as likely to say something like this as he is to sing a rousing chorus of “Solidarity Forever.”

When Kasich talks about his time as governor, as he did to my Washington Post colleague Michael Gerson last year, the things he brags about include his work on autism, mental illness, and drug addiction. He notes — the Almighty again — that all his constituents “are made in the image of God.”

You can tell Kasich knows he will have to run a rebel’s campaign because he has hired rebellious Republican consultants, including John Weaver, John McCain’s campaign strategist who feuded famously with Karl Rove, and Fred Davis, who specializes in off-beat (and sometimes controversial) political commercials.

Kasich’s poll standing might well exclude him from one or more of the early debates. That would be a shame. Perhaps there should be a Midwest debate bracket. A Kasich-Walker confrontation would be especially enlightening.

“I have a little bit of a different message here,” Kasich said at a Republican Governors Association meeting last year. Indeed he does. It’s probably why he can’t win. It’s also why his party needs to listen.

E.J. Dionne’s email address is [email protected] Twitter: @EJDionne.

Illustrations: DonkeyHotey

  • Dominick Vila

    In the eyes of the mildest Tea Party supporter, Gov. Kasich is nothing more than a RINO. The most fascinating part of his anticipated poor performance as a candidate to the presidency is the fact that his fairly successful record contrasts with the dismal socio-economic record of Governor Walker. Why are so many middle class Americans so adamant against any organization or individual who champions better wages, better benefits, and better working conditions? Because they have been convinced by a highly effective disinformation machine that social programs, higher wages, better benefits, and just about anything that helps the middle class and the poor is evil socialism, and the end of good jobs in America. The answer, for them, is trickle down economics, starting with policies that help those who already own 2/3 of our national wealth accumulate more wealth, usually at the expense of the middle class, hoping that some crumbs may filter down to the average American worker. Well, there is an element of truth in such theory, but only if we look at the record and understand that the more money the oligarchs have…the more money they invest in China, Bangladesh, and just about anywhere but in the United States.

    • idamag

      For years, they have been devaluing the American worker so he will be so beholden for a job, he will accept any demeaning work situation. I am not talking about work as being demeaning. I am talking about working conditions.

    • Irishgrammy

      Dominick, you are soo right! I have watched what the GOP has done to Unions for over 30+ years now, really since Reagan, simply to destroy the collective strength of Union participation in elections, ……and as ever, to enrich the GOP’s own constituency and base, the wealthy…….funny how that worked out for the uber wealthy, death of Unions, more money in the wealthy/corporations pockets and the working class falling father behind, hummmmmm…… The contrast of what Scott Walker has done killing the unions along with his partners in crime, his right wing legislature, as he attacks teachers, nurses, etc., and his horrible economic growth/employment numbers in Wisconsin doing all and everything at the behest of the Koch’s and what Kasich has done in his state is striking! I am still bewildered on how it has worked so well over the years as the GOP get middle class people to vote against their own best interests………..but long ago figured out the “culture wars” “God, gays, abortions, race relations/attacks or attacking ANY programs that might help improve those issues, promoted ad nauseam by the GOP have been a huge factor! Most or all of these issues, truly has nothing to do with most average peoples’ lives in any way other than the visceral and more often than not, biased/bigoted reaction that enrages some, driving these kinds to the polls to vote their rage. Also, Gov. Kasich modest success in Ohio, is in large part due to Pres. Obama saving the auto industry in 2009, Ohio having a huge auto industry affiliation in manufacturing of parts, auto plants, etc…….but you’ll never hear that credit being given to the President from Kasich!!!

      • Dominick Vila

        The greatest irony, besides the positive impact that organized labor has had on improving the working conditions of most American workers during the lat century, is the very concept of Union, which is simply an instrument designed to give those who do not have a voice the opportunity to defend themselves and their interests through the strengthen of organized bargaining. The idea that challenging the wishes of the powerful is an evil concept, and that the best course of action to achieve prosperity is to succumb to their wishes, is nothing short of perplexing.

      • idamag

        Other factions can have organizations to speak for them. Doctors have the AMA, manufacturers have the National Association of Manufacturers, Retail has one of the most powerful lobby groups in the United States. Even the gun lobby is the powerful NRA. But, where does the working man get off thinking he has a right to a lobby group?

  • FireBaron

    Frankly, I would love to see a head-to-head of Kasich and Walker. Walker would be left as a blubbering idiot, mouthing Tea Party Platitudes. When he is shown up as the penurious nincompoop he is, he would sink faster than the Lusitania!

    • stcroixcarp

      Don’t count on it. Poop floats.

  • gmccpa

    So, in other words, Kasich has been a more successful Governor. But among Repubs/TeaParty, he trails Walker by double digits.

    When you’re dealing with the intelligence impaired, that’s how it goes. Evidence…..most of those types still believe the GWB years were great. ie..’do you miss me yet’. Oh. And the Donald is leading the whole bunch. Can the bar be set any lower?

    An aside on the GWB era. There’s a FB post going around basically saying ‘the worst day under Bush, is better than the best day under Obama’. Leaving aside the ‘debatable’ issues. They seem to have forgotten about Sept 11. (where’s Rudy?). I guess for all self proclaimed patriots….’always remember’, has now become…’eh’

    • idamag

      They will accept convicted war criminals over a Black Man in the White House. Bush, Cheney and Rumfsfeld were convicted in absentia in two countries and several others have warrants for their arrest. Cheney had to leave Canada for that reason recently.

  • charleo1

    Americans have a tremendous opportunity as early as the fall of next year, to totally transform our Country, into a virtually worry free paradise! A magical place where most all of the big, divisive issues are placed securely in the hands of those who’ve proven their abilities to make the best choices, and pick the best, and most morally upright people to lead the Nation. By generously funding their campaigns with the huge fortunes the’ve been able to accumulate. And, what could be more emblematic of American Exceptionalism, than these “exceptionally wealthy,” Americans, and the Multi National Conglomerate Corporations they run, to be put in the position of also running the Country? Those who will spare no expense in buying out, and privatizing all those wasteful public agencies like the EPA, and public education, and bureaucratic regulatory agencies, in order to appropriately downsize the government. Which as is pointed out over and over, is a symptom of the big, bloated, expensive, Federal Government. That creates far more problems than it solves. And the vast majority of real American, except for the tax, and spend, Liberals, and those too lazy to work, and carry their own weight, trust it anyway. The military, being the lone exception to all this government bureaucracy, and incompetence will not be effected. In fact, it will be expanded to a point where the security of the Country will be 100% guaranteed. No longer will the Country be threatened by open borders. Or will Americans be forced to tolerate the undesirables coming in raping our women, and feeding drugs to our kids. Terrorist, and the appeasers who negotiate with them, will be viewed as one and the same. Black, or white, for us, or agin us. We win, or we both you back to the stone age! And with the inefficient, wasteful, and unnecessary socialistic government redistribution programs eliminated. Who would dare mess with the kind of overwhelming force, and economic power our proven free market private sector will create?
    Now for those skeptics, and cynics, who say this freedom sounds wonderful. But, it just can’t be done! Not in just one election in a Country this size. I would remind them that already more wealth is owned, and controlled by the top 1%, than is collectively held by the entire bottom half. That 80% of the private property is in the hands of just 20%, and that number could be cut in half in a decade. So I’d guess we’re about 90% there! The next President will hold the power to appoint the next majority on the Supreme Court for a generation. And all that is necessary for regular Americans to make this wonderfulness happen, is to do absolutely nothing. It’s just that easy! Say nothing, contribute nothing, don’t try and get involved the process. All this will be expertly handled for you! Don’t bother to vote. Just sit home and watch the election night news, and see what happens.

  • stcroixcarp

    Scott Walker’s Koch funded Wisconsin Supreme Court has ruled that the John Doe investigations must be stopped. The John Doe investigations lead to six (6) felony convictions of Walker appointees and campaign underlings. Remember this about Scott Walker–he is a liar and a crook.

    • idamag

      Iike what Stephen Colbert said when he sat across from David Koch at a function. “David would pick up the tab,but he left his Wisconsin in his other pants.”

      • angryspittle

        And Snotty was too busy licking David’s scrotum in the pants he was wearing anyway.

  • idamag

    Either of these men, in the presidency would be a mistake. They both have acted like bullies.

  • angryspittle

    Good Gawd. Walker is such a zero it is frightening. He doesn’t even fit the description of an empty suit. He doesn’t even have a suit. The poor doofus is naked. I doubt very much if there has ever been a candidate with a serious chance of his party’s nomination that is as totally unqualified as this goddamn drooling window licking mouth breathing idiot.

  • browninghipower

    I always wonder why Liberals rush to ‘save’ the GOP from itself. Who cares about the ‘sanity’ of Kasich? He’s still a Right Wing Con. He’s really no better than Walker. Peel back this one layer of ‘common sense’ and you’ll still find a right wing low-life. Let the GOP destroy itself, EJ. I despise them. Their goal is a plutocratic theocracy.

    • David

      But if another libtard gets elected to the presidency, they are going to want your 9mm semiautomatic assault pistol…

      • browninghipower

        Oh please. I’m a fucking liberal with a CCW and lots of handguns and long guns. And no one from any government entity under any liberal has ever tried to take my weapons. What is wrong with you? I hope I misread your snark. If not….get help.

        • David

          Then you don’t live in Connecticut, N. Y. City, or Wash. D. C. do you? Wake up DS! The liberals think your gun is evil! They don’t want you to have one. Rely on the government to protect one. After all, you are their willing slave.