Kasich Enters the Race, Which Makes... How Many?

There are about 470 days left until the 2016 presidential election, almost as many as the number of candidates there are for the Republican nomination, a group that grows one larger today with the entrance of Ohio governor John Kasich. For a primer on Kasich--whose nickname in childhood was "Pope" and who once considered the priesthood--you could do worse than read E. J. Dionne Jr.'s latest column, which we're featuring here. He assesses Kasich mainly in contrast to another midwestern governor, Wisconsin's Scott Walker, contending that the former deserves a fuller hearing given, among other things, his support for the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion in his state--a case he made 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.'” Kasich, too, though undeniably a conservative, sensibly "recalibrated" after Ohio voters rejected his bid to end collective bargaining for public union employees, then reached out to "his previous enemies" so successfully he won the endorsement of the Carpenters' Union last year.
 
Just where this sensible approach will help him wedge into the clown car is questionable, especially with the manspreading Donald Trump taking up more than his fair share of space. Trump is at the top of the most recent polls at 24 percent, double the support of the second-place Jeb Bush, although most of the survey was taken before his comments denigrating Sen. John McCain's war record and imprisonment, and now the DesMoines Register has called for him to drop out. But Rush Limbaugh says Trump can survive it. Voters, he told his listeners Monday, "have not seen an embattled public figure stand up for himself, double down and tell everybody to go to hell ... Trump is not following the rules that targets are supposed to follow. Targets are supposed to immediately grovel, apologize." It's hard to think that there are American voters who are so disaffected that Limbaugh will prove right.
 
Donald Trump.... Is there another public figure aside from maybe Al Sharpton who has so conclusively disproved the adage that if you ignore something long enough it will go away? Nearly thirty years ago, in my first job out of college, my colleagues and I were already following his skewering by the old satirical magazine Spy--which unfailingly referred to him, at every mention, as "short-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump." I'll risk speaking on behalf of New Yorkers in saying we've been especially oppressed by his presence these many decades since.
 
The local tabloids (as well as glossier magazines and ultimately their online counterparts) blare his every outrage, cover all his comings and goings and whatever lurid doings emanate. Round a given corner, drive along a given highway, and there's bound to be some structure emblazoned with his name. I recently crossed the Whitestone Bridge for the first time in a while and from the span saw the word "Trump" carved on the embankment of his new golf course. That building in which my colleagues and I read about him in Spy? Torn down to make way for the modestly christened Trump World Tower, for a time the tallest residential high-rise on earth. I'd maybe hope that Trump seek forgiveness from above for these and other transgressions, except that being Trump means never having to say you're sorry. “If I do something wrong, I try to do something right,” he told an evangelical audience at the Family Leadership Summit in Iowa Saturday. “I don’t bring God into that picture. ... When we go in church and I drink the little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and I eat the little cracker—I guess that’s a form of asking forgiveness.” Many think it's comments like these, rather than his remarks about McCain, that will doom Trump in the GOP contest. 
 
Monday night on PBS NewsHour, Gwen Ifill seemed momentarily unsure how many people are running for president ("Twenty," she hazarded), and who can blame her? This includes the -- five? -- Democratic contenders. Lincoln Chafee is one of these; he pulled zero support -- not zero or "statistically insignificant" percent, but zero votes -- in a recent poll, a little surprising given how much support there is for his call to put the United States on the metric system. Jim Webb is another; he announced his bid going into the long July 4 weekend, then, that out of the way, kicked back and relaxed for the rest of it. If the jockeying for a spot in the upcoming Fox News Republican presidential debate or stories on "the brusque style" of Hillary Clinton's father aren't getting you geared for the next 470 days, it's okay to keep following the endeavors of the office's current occupant.  Maureen Dowd, no slouch herself at remaining on the stage, wrote over the weekend of Barack Obama's "rhymes-with-bucket list" and how the president seems confidently to be pursuing, and on the way to achieving, his goals on Iran, Cuba, race, trade, and reform of the criminal justice system. 
He has talked wistfully in private for years about 'going Bulworth' and emulating Warren Beatty’s hilariously blunt senator in that movie. Now he’s doing it. ... “This is the guy I know,” David Axelrod told me. “He’s focused on big things, speaking hard truths and damning small politics, and that is why so many of us were attracted to him from the start.” 
By my count, there are with Kasich now twenty-one announced candidates for the presidency (I'm receptive to a fact check). How many of these for you are inspiring the kind of attraction Axelrod speaks of?  

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s editor. Follow him on Twitter.

Also by this author
Season of the list

Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Books
Books