Yeah, I’m focused on 2016 today. Forgive me. And let me state that I have no immediate favorite candidate.
When assessing which candidate to consider in 2016, we would be wise to remember William F. Buckley’s maxim to nominate the most conservative candidate electable.
That last word is crucial.
Herman Cain was certainly more conservative than Mitt Romney, but he had zero chance of winning the presidential election. That primary voters actually considered him a credible and viable candidate was a distressing development. (Cain decided that his first run for elective office would be the presidency, which would seem to indicate too superior a feeling of one’s own abilities. A notable exception? Eisenhower. His previous job experience was not a talk-show host or running a pizza company but managing the Allied Forces to victory in Europe.)
Buckley’s maxim is a great rule of thumb, which only should be abandoned in extremely rare cases, and with just cause. One that comes to mind is the Delaware Senate race of 2010, where it was clear that Christine O’Donnell was more conservative and also not at all electable in a statewide election in Delaware. So why vote for her in the primary? After all, no one disputed that Mike Castle, the other Republican candidate in the race, would have been elected Senator if he beat O’Donnell in the primary. But Mike Castle spent his entire career in the U.S. House attacking the rest of the Republican Party for being pro-life. He was constantly pushing for embryonic-destructive research and would have continued this in the United States Senate. Does anyone doubt the media would have given him every possible microphone they had to blast the Republican Party? Not every win is a win, folks.
There are those who want Ted Cruz or Rand Paul to run. And it is true that Barack Obama was elected to the presidency as a Senator. But this is a rarity. Senators almost never move from the Upper Chamber to the White House. Before Obama, Kennedy was the last to make the leap. John Kerry and Bob Dole being recent examples of those who lost.
Governors and vice-presidents are preferred as nominees. Vice-Presidents give the public a chance to stay the course if the incumbent is preferred. (Which is the only reason the dim-bulb Biden is even considered a possibility in 2016). Republicans have no former vice-president to run in 2016. So that means GOP voters should focus their attention on governors who can say, “Look what I’ve done in my state, elect my president and I’ll do the same for you.”
Scott Walker has certainly been pushing for strong reforms of state government and curtailed spending, but he ducked a comment on DOMA after the Supreme Court rulings. My friend Peter Wolfgang listened to Walker give a speech in Connecticut last month where he said that the GOP should avoid social issues and only focus on economic ideas. UPDATE: Peter sent my the following note: “One important clarification: Walker did not explicitly say that the GOP should avoid social issues. His speech was a recipe for GOP victory that itself avoided any reference to life or marriage.” I think my assessment of this remains valid: Wasn’t that Mitt Romney and John McCain’s strategy?
Many conservative are still upset at Chris Christie, saying he was fawning over Barack Obama after Hurricane Sandy and say he’s not really that conservative. But I was very happy at Christie for slamming the Supreme Court over the DOMA rulings. And Christie has moxie to fight the state government employee union, which are bleeding so many governments dry. (Did you know that there are 22 million people who work for government in the United States? Talk about depressing.)
I love Bobby Jindal and his record in Louisiana is sterling. He’s cut state government and pushed strong for education choice. But appearances count a lot in this media age. And Jindal’s slender and short 5’9 frame might be a liability. After all, Jimmy Carter is the only man under 6 feet elected president since 1952. (By the way, Marco Rubio, is 5’10.) I hope my initial concern is off-base because Bobby Jindal would make a great president.
I’m not sure how tall Ohio Governor John Kasich is. But perhaps he should be considered in 2016 talk. Ohio is crucial for a Republican to win the White House, so nominating the governor from Ohio makes a lot of sense. There’s a long profile of him today over at Politico.
Kasich’s poll numbers were anemic 18 months ago. The voters in Ohio thought he was too aggressive with his reforms. He tried to go as far as Scott Walker on reforming state government but the voters rejected the proposal at the ballot box. Kasich then re-tooled his approach while still pushed for commonsense reforms. He went from 40% approval a year ago to hitting 54% approval this week. The Tea Party might not like his embrace of Medicaid expansion, and spending on such entitlements are a massive problem moving forward. But Kasich was the House Budget Chairman in Congress during the 1990s and deserves credit for getting the country’s budget balanced for the first time in decades (without raising taxes). And Kasich is poised to sign a $2.4 billion tax cut for Ohioans this Sunday. That budget also includes a provision expanding school choice for low-income students and two pro-life provisions.
Abortion supporters are calling on Kasich to line-item veto the pro-life provisions, but that seems very unlikely. Kasich told the ABC affiliate in Cleveland:
“They weren’t in my original budget, they’re in there, we’re considering what we’re going to do, but everybody should keep in mind I’m pro-life and the Legislature felt strongly about that,” Kasich said. ”How I do with the bill and what I sign will speak for itself but people shouldn’t miss out the fact that all my career I’ve been pro-life.”
There are some who prefer the strong (perhaps abrasive) rhetoric of a Herman Cain. But I prefer the candidate who can win and then move public policy in a pro-life and pro-family direction.
Kasich isn’t without his flaws, but if the voters of Ohio reelect him governor in 2014, perhaps we should consider him in 2016.