The Cincinnati Enquirer's Chrissie Thompson lays out the campaign epitaph of Ohio GOP Gov. John Kasich, who was the last man standing between Donald Trump and the Republican nomination in Cleveland in July.
When John Kasich first was deciding to run for president, he continually told advisers: “I don’t want to embarrass myself.”
Did he, or did he not? The question, and its impact on Kasich’s legacy, lingers now that Kasich has removed himself from the Republican race, leaving Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee.
You can point to how the Ohio governor entered as the 16th of 17 major GOP candidates and outlasted all but one. How he and his allies defeated or outlasted several opponents who outspent them by more than $100 million each. And how when he launched his campaign, his national GOP polling total was within the margin of error – statistically a zero. Yet by springtime, he consistently polled as the only Republican ahead of Democrat Hillary Clinton in general election matchups.
For a few hours, Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, Kasich had the one-on-one match with Trump he had always wanted. And the general election polls seemed to show the presidency, for decades an ultimate goal, was nearly within his grasp.
But look at it from the other side.
Kasich started fading from the national consciousness weeks ago. He only won one state, his native Ohio; only picked up nine delegates after that March 15 win; only won 153 delegates total, to Trump’s 1,053 and counting. He talked of fighting for the soul of the Republican Party, yet his backers comprised the GOP of yesteryear, without many current leaders in the mix. For the last couple of months, Kasich's only hope of becoming president was helping to keep Trump from winning the nomination outright, forcing a contested convention, where he hoped to lure delegates to his side.
While some clung to Kasich as the last hope for an inclusive, pragmatic Republican Party, calling Trump a demagogue and Ted Cruz an extremist, the collective Republican voting base shrugged. Kasich’s message failed to win them. So on Wednesday evening, he suspended his presidential campaign.
“The spirit, the essence of America, lies in the hearts and souls of us. You see, some missed this message. It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t a great soundbite,” Kasich said. “As I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life."
The fact that Kasich was considered in any way a moderate Republican shows just how awful the GOP clate of nominees were. Kasich made it very clear he wanted to do to the nation what he has wanted to do to Ohio: eliminate the last vestiges of public unions, drive abortion clinics out of business with TRAP laws, slash spending for the most vulnerable citizens and most depressing, force the US into eliminating deficit spending with a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would effectively destroy the country's economy, starting with the safety net programs of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.
For this, he was considered a "moderate" Republican instead of a lunatic.
And yet for the GOP Kasich wasn't nearly awful enough to consider voting for. Ironically, he would have fared the best in the general out of virtually all of the GOP nominees, arguably beating Clinton handily and giving Sanders by far his toughest opponent, but the GOP of Trump wanted nothing to do with him in the end.
So, Kasich will serve out his second term an simply wreck the Buckeye State instead as Ohio continues its descent into Red State madness and total Republican control instead.
That's Kasich's real legacy, and it's abhorrent.