In terms of whom it wishes to nominate for president, the Republican Party may seem to be in disarray, with one section coalescing around the loathed Cruz, another the ebullient Trump, and a third potential white knight Paul Ryan; however, none of these candidates will be favorites in a general election against Hillary Clinton. While any of these men could win the general election, they will each be faced with unique issues and, in the case of Cruz and Trump, record-low favorability ratings. With that being said, all has not been lost for the Party of Lincoln. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, remains in the race and is the most viable option for the GOP for three reasons:
- Ohio. No Republican has won the election without Ohio. The last Democrat to win without Ohio was JFK in 1960, over Richard Nixon. Needless to say, the GOP needs to win Ohio and its 18 electoral votes in order to have a chance against the Democrats’ “blue wall.” Kasich guarantees a victory. Going 12-0, Kasich is undefeated in Ohio, and crushed the Democrats in his 2014 gubernatorial reelection, winning 86 of 88 counties.
- Experience. If Cruz or Trump were to win the nomination, the national media and Democrats alike would slaughter them based off a lack of experience. It could make no such claim against Kasich. He has worked for the Republican Party since Reagan’s 1976 election bid, making him the only candidate on either side to stay loyal to his party. While 2016 may be the year of political outsiders, many people will accept a lifelong politician, someone who has made difficult decisions his entire life, in the coming months due to continued threats from ISIS. Hillary Clinton is without question the most experienced person in the race, but Kasich will make a strong claim.
- Broad Appeal. This is Kasich’s strongest argument. He is the only candidate who beats Clinton outside the margin of error on a consistent basis. Furthermore, while Cruz may divide the Republican base and drive moderates to the left, Kasich would have the opposite effect; centrists would have no problem supporting him. And while he may not wave the Bible around à la Cruz, he will still gather right-wing support with a Tea Party running mate, such as Nikki Haley or Marco Rubio. Such a ticket would also attract minority groups to the GOP, groups who feel disenfranchised by Trump’s rhetoric but still believe in fiscal conservatism.
Ultimately, while Cruz or Trump could pull off an upset victory, Kasich would start as the frontrunner in a campaign against Clinton. If it were Clinton v. Kasich, I envision Kasich flipping Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Wisconsin, while also winning the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, giving him 295 electoral votes. In contrast, for Trump to win without Florida, a near guarantee due to his negative relations with the Bush family and Florida’s large Hispanic population, he would have to win nearly every Rust Belt state, something that hasn’t happened for Republicans since the Reagan administration. At the end of the day, if the GOP wants to ensure the reestablishment of a conservative Supreme Court and hold a Republican-majority Congress, it should choose Kasich.