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A Debate Confrontation Would Be Enlightening”: Walker, Kasich And The GOP’s Midwest Bracket

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 reelection 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, Saint 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 Sunday, 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 is expected to announce 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-percent-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 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 offbeat (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.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 19, 2015

July 20, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich, Scott Walker | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Paths To The Presidency”: John Kasich And The Road Less Taken, Because It Goes Nowhere

Last month I spent a few minutes mocking a Cleveland Plain Dealer story that suggested big donors might hunt down Ohio Gov. John Kasich as he traipsed around the Mountain West plumping for a balanced budget constitutional amendment, and beg him to become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. I half-thought the story was the product of somebody in Kashichland funnin’ a local reporter. I mean, really, a guy as seasoned as Kasich didn’t really think that was a viable strategy for becoming Leader of the Free World, did he?

But now we have a Wall Street Journal piece from the veteran national political reporter Janet Hook reporting the same madness:

If Ohio Gov. John Kasich is thinking of running for president, he’s taking a very circuitous route. Mr. Kasich, one of several Republican governors seen as potential candidates, is spending much of this week traveling through six sparsely populated Western states to promote balancing the budget.

Fresh off his inauguration to a second term as governor, Mr. Kasich is travelling from South Dakota to Wyoming to Idaho in a tour that ends Friday. He is trying to round up support for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget — even as fiscal issues seem to be fading in Congress.

But then, after reporting that Kasich doesn’t admit this odd out-of-state travel schedule means he’s running for president, Hook cites it as one of several “paths to the presidency,” alongside those more conventional candidates are pursuing:

Mr. Kasich is part of a distinct posse of potential candidates — Republican governors that include Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who are angling to use their states’ records as calling cards in a bid for national office.

Mr. Kasich is proud of Ohio’s economic turnaround, and of his 2014 re-election by more than 30 percentage points. He has been trying to espouse a new brand of compassionate conservatism, supporting an expansion of Medicaid in his first term and saying in his second inaugural address, “Somehow we have lost the beautiful sound of our neighbors’ voices. Moving beyond ourselves and trying to share in the experience of others helps us open our minds, allows us to grow as people.”

But he is pairing that big-hearted message with fiscal conservatism, his trademark issue during his 18 years in Congress when he played a lead role in crafting a 1997 deal to eliminate the federal budget deficit.

So Ohio Record (including the kryptonite-to-conservatives Medicaid expansion) plus Balanced Budget somehow equals viable candidacy. It’s not easy to understand how, mechanically, anyone would win the nomination this way, unless Hook is buying the idea big donors will track him down somewhere in the Rockies and beg him to run.

You know what I think? A lot of MSM types think Kasich ought to be the kind of candidate the Republicans nominate, and that fiscal hawkery–the only part of the Constitutional Conservative ideology they understand–could be his ticket to ride.

Beyond that, there are an awful lot of people who think the current presidential nominating process, and particularly the role of the early states, is absurd, and would love to see someone defy it. But it keeps not happening. The last two serious candidates who tried to skip the early states–Democrat Al Gore in 1988 and Rudy Giuliani in 2008 (well, he didn’t originally plan to skip the early states but shifted away from them when support was not forthcoming) went nowhere. Perhaps someone with a massive national following and special credibility with the conservative activists who view the early states as their God-given choke point on the GOP nomination could get away with starting late and elsewhere. But not John Kasich.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 23, 2015

January 24, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Real Improvements In People’s Lives”: John Kasich’s Unforgivable Truth About Obamacare

When we Washington types sit around and handicap the GOP field for 2016, we tend to talk about the known quantities, the people prancing around before us on a daily basis thrusting their elbows in one another’s general direction, your Pauls and Cruzes and Perrys and so on. Then Bush and Christie are mentioned. Eventually, though, some clever person shyly pipes up: “You know, keep one eye on John Kasich.”

And everyone thinks, “Yes, that’s smart.” Because Kasich is the governor of the echt-purple state, Ohio. Because he’s popular, and he’s cruising to reelection. Because his association with some of the party’s batshittier positions is remote. Because governors are usually better candidates than senators anyway.

Always has made a lot of sense to me. But yesterday, the case for Kasich got harder by dint of the governor’s electorally unfathomable and instantly controversial remarks about Obamacare. Campaigning Monday, Kasich told the Associated Press that a full repeal of the hated law is “not gonna happen.” And then he said this: “The opposition to it was really either political or ideological. I don’t think that holds water against real flesh and blood, and real improvements in people’s lives.”

A Republican governor with presidential aspirations acknowledging that Obamacare is improving people’s lives is akin to…well, for starters, a Democratic governor with presidential aspirations saying the Iraq War was a dandy idea. An astonishing statement. His press aides quickly scrambled to explain that Kasich still wants to repeal and replace the law and emphasized that they were seeking some kind of correction from the AP, allegedly on the grounds that the “it” in Kasich’s quote might have meant only the Medicaid expansion, not the entire Obamacare law. [Update: Yes, it would appear that the “it” was just the Medicaid expansion, and the AP has now changed their report to reflect this. Kasich’s press aide Rob Nichols called me Tuesday morning to say: “Absolutely no news was broken yesterday.”]

Be that as it may, stuffing this cat back in this bag probably can’t be done. The quote is out there now. Flesh and blood improvements in people’s lives! Via Barack Obama.

Intense partisans on both sides make up their minds about politicians less on intellectual or policy-substantive bases than on what we in the pundit trade call “affective” ones—having to do with their emotional responses, how a candidate or a situation makes them feel. It’s true as I say on both sides, but it’s much truer on the right these days than on the left, because the right-wing base has real power over Republican politicians, whereas the left base doesn’t have remotely that kind of power to frighten Democratic pols. If a Democrat angers the left, he or she will likely survive it except over one or two issues (the aforementioned Iraq War), and indeed is likelier than not to end up prospering from having done so (the Sister Souljah paradigm).

If a Republican enrages the right, though, he’s cooked. And it can be the smallest and most symbolic thing. Charlie Crist got thrown out of the party for one hug, after all. Mitt Romney was never the base’s favorite, of course, and neither was John McCain. But you’ll notice that when each was the party’s nominee, neither whispered a syllable that would risk offending the base. McCain elevated Sarah Palin. Romney finally adopted some slightly more centrist-seeming positions during the first debate, but he was extremely clever about that, because in doing so, he confounded the media, which were aghast at his sudden reversals of position. So in other words, the base forgave him for the crime of moving to the center because he did it in a way that made the media mad, which pleased the base voters more than his shifts displeased them.

So, back to Kasich. It was one thing to take the Medicaid money. He was one of nine Republican governors to do so, so he had company there. But there’s a right way and wrong way for a Republican governor to accept the Medicaid money. You take the Medicaid money by still complaining about the law and denouncing it, lying that your hands were tied or something like that. You don’t take it by saying it’s actually good.

But Kasich on this point was already in trouble with conservatives, because he took the money a year ago in what conservatives in the Buckeye State thought was a really shifty way. He went around the GOP-controlled state legislature, which opposed the expansion, and won a 5-2 vote on a state Controlling Board  whose authority even to make such a decision was questioned at the time by conservatives. Kasich had, in the run-up to the vote, traveled the state campaigning to accept the money, even occasionally making (are you sitting down?) moral arguments in favor of helping the poor.

So all that was known. But none of it was a sound-bite like this. The obvious implication here for 2016 is that, as president, he would not seek to repeal the law, even though he still insists otherwise. So picture the GOP candidate debates of late 2015. They will be asked if they’re going to repeal all of Obamacare. Yes, the rest will thunder! But Kasich will perform some meek tap dance about repeal and replace, leaving the good parts. Good parts?! To GOP primary voters?

Well, he’ll certainly stand out from the field. And who knows. Maybe the 2016 GOP will decide that this sin is forgivable. The urge to beat Hillary Clinton will be fierce, and if the polls say Kasich can do it, then maybe voters will cut him the necessary slack. But that would be a very different electorate from the one we’ve known. My thought for now: Move that eye you were keeping on Kasich over to Indiana’s Mike Pence.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, October 21, 2014

October 23, 2014 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, John Kasich, Obamacare | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blatant And Immediate”: The Supreme Court That Made It Easier To Buy Elections Just Made It Harder For People To Vote In Them

In case there was any remaining confusion with regard to the precise political intentions of the US Supreme Court’s activist majority, things were clarified Monday. The same majority that has made it easier for corporations to buy elections (with the Citizens United v. FEC decision) and for billionaires to become the dominant players in elections across the country (with the McCutcheon v. FEC decision) decided to make it harder for people in Ohio to vote.

Yes, this Court has messed with voting rights before, frequently and in damaging ways. It has barely been a year since the majority struck down key elements of the Voting Rights Act.

But Monday’s decision by the majority was especially blatant—and immediate. One day before early voting was set to begin in Ohio on Tuesday, the Supreme Court delayed the start of the process with a decision that will reduce the early voting period from thirty-five days to twenty-eight days.

Assaults on early voting are particularly troublesome, as the changes limit the time available for working people to cast ballots and increase the likelihood of long lines on Election Day. And changes of this kind are doubly troublesome when they come in close proximity to high-stakes elections, as they create confusion about when and how to vote.

American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Executive Director Freda Levenson decried the ruling, calling it “a real loss for Ohio voters, especially those who must use evenings, weekends and same-day voter registration to cast their ballot.”

The ACLU fought the legal battle for extended early voting on behalf of the National Association of Colored People and the League of Women Voters, among others.

“To make (the Supreme Court ruling) even worse,” Levenson told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “this last-minute decision will cause tremendous confusion among Ohioans about when and how they can vote.”

Ohio Republicans had no complaints. They have made no secret of their disdain for extended early voting, which has been allowed for a number of years and which has become a standard part of the political process in urban areas where voters seek to avoid the long lines that have plagued Ohio on past Election Days.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a top Republican, has taken the lead in efforts to restrict voting. In June, he established a restricted voting schedule. Husted’s scheme was upset by lower-court rulings. In particular, the courts sought to preserve early voting in the evening and on Sundays, which is especially important for working people.

Fully aware of that reality, the Supreme Court scrambled to issue a 5-4 decision that “temporarily” allows the limits on early voting to be restored. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy voted to allow Husted to limit voting, while Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan opposed the ruling.

Monday’s ruling was not a final decision; the Court could revisit the matter. But that won’t happen in time to restore full early voting before his year’s November 4 election.

The Court is sending a single of at least tacit approval of controversial moves by officials in other states—such as Wisconsin and North Carolina– to curtail early voting and access to the polls. Legal wrangling also continues over the implementation of restrictive Voter ID rules in those states and others—with special concern regarding Wisconsin, where a September federal appeals court ruling has officials scrambling to implement a Voter ID law that had been blocked by a lower-court judge.

Expressing disappointment that a narrow majority on the Supreme Court has permitted “changes that could make it harder for tens of thousands of Ohioans to vote,” Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law, said, “Courts should serve as a bulwark against rollbacks to voting rights and prevent politicians from disenfranchising voters for political reasons.”

Weiser is right.

Unfortunately, the High Court is focused on expanding the influence of billionaires, not voters.


By: John Nichols, The Nation, September 29, 2014

October 2, 2014 Posted by | U. S. Supreme Court, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Important Voting Rights Victory”: Ohio Early Voting Cuts Violate The Voting Rights Act

Ohio keeps trying to cut early voting and the federal courts keep striking the cuts down.

Last year, Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature cut a week of early voting and eliminated the “Golden Week” when voters can register and vote on the same day during the early voting period. GOP Secretary of State Jon Husted also issued a directive prohibiting early voting on the two days before the election, and on weekends and nights in the preceding weeks—the times when it’s most convenient to vote.

Today a federal court in Ohio issued a preliminary injunction against the early voting cuts, which it said violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, ordering Ohio to restore early voting opportunities before the midterms. “African Americans in Ohio are more likely than other groups to utilize [early] voting in general and to rely on evening and Sunday voting hours,” wrote District Court Judge Peter Economus, a Clinton appointee. As a consequence, the early voting cuts “result in fewer voting opportunities for African Americans.”

The lawsuit was brought by the ACLU and the Ohio NAACP. In 2012, 157,000 Ohioans cast ballots during early voting hours eliminated by the Ohio GOP. Overall, 600,000 Ohioans, 10 percent of the electorate, voted early in 2012.

Blacks in Ohio were far more likely than whites to vote early in 2008 and 2012. “In the November 2008 election in [Cleveland’s] Cuyahoga County, African-Americans voted early in person at a rate over twenty times greater than white voters,” according to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. In cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton blacks voted early in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the population.

There’s an important backstory here. Early voting became a critical reform in Ohio after the disastrous 2004 election. Once Democrats and minority groups began using it in large numbers, Republicans repeatedly tried to curb early voting. As I’ve previously reported:

In 2004, Ohio had the longest lines in the country on Election Day, with some voters—particularly in large urban areas—waiting as long as seven hours to vote. A DNC survey estimated that 174,000 Ohioans—3 percent of the state’s electorate—left without voting. George W. Bush won the state by just 118,000 votes.

In response to the long lines, Ohio adopted thirty-five days of early voting in 2008, including on nights and weekends. But following the large Democratic turnout in 2008, Ohio Republicans drastically curtailed early voting in 2012 from thirty-five to eleven days, with no voting on the Sunday before the election, when African-American churches historically rally their congregants to go to the polls. Voting rights activists subsequently gathered enough signatures to block the new voting restrictions and force a referendum on Election Day. In reaction, Ohio Republicans repealed their own bill in the state legislature, but kept a ban on early voting three days before Election Day (when 98,000 Ohioans voted in 2008), adding an exception for active duty members of the military, who tend to lean Republican.

These cuts disproportionately impacted black voters, who made up a majority of early voters in large urban areas like Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County and Dayton’s Montgomery County in 2008. Ohio Republicans brazenly tried to cut early voting hours in Democratic counties while expanding them in Republican ones. GOP leaders admitted the cuts in Democratic counties were motivated by racial politics. “I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban—read African-American—voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, the GOP chair in Columbus’s Franklin County.

These voter suppression efforts backfired in 2012. The Obama campaign successfully sued to reinstate early voting on the three days before Election Day (although Secretary of State Jon Husted limited the hours) and the overall share of the black electorate increased from 11 percent in 2008 to 15 percent in 2012.

Despite the public and legal backlash, Ohio Republicans pressed ahead with early voting cuts in 2013. Now they’ve lost in court, again. (Some Ohio Republicans are also trying to pass a new voter ID law. Nine hundred thousand Ohioans, including one in four African-Americans, don’t have a government-issued ID).

Judge Economus’s ruling could have broad significance. Ohio is once again a critical swing state in 2014, with competitive races for governor and secretary of state.

More broadly, the courts are split over how to interpret the remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act in the wake of the Supreme Court’s gutting a key part of the law last June. This is the first time a court has struck down limits on early voting under Section 2 of the VRA. A Bush-appointed judge recently denied a preliminary injunction to block North Carolina’s cuts to early voting and the elimination of same-day registration, a lawsuit similar to the one in Ohio. A Wisconsin judged blocked the state’s voter ID law under Section 2, while a similar trial is currently underway in Texas.

As Rick Hasen points out, we still don’t know if the courts will consistently stop new vote denial efforts like voter ID and cuts to early voting. And the Roberts Court could very well overturn any good precedents in the lower courts.

The Ohio ruling is an important voting rights victory. But it won’t be the last word.


By: Ari Berman, The Nation, September 4, 2014

September 7, 2014 Posted by | Democracy, Voter Suppression, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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