If Donald Trump manages to win the Republican presidential nomination (and this is becoming less of an “if” with each passing day), then he must select a vice-presidential running mate. Surely it will be tough for The Donald to share the national ticket with anyone, but at least he will still be on top.
With this decision potentially on the horizon, did Trump spontaneously drop a hint about who could be on his veep short-list during Thursday night’s Republican debate?
The answer is yes.
It began after Trump explained how China has control over the rogue nation of North Korea and the need for a U.S. tariff on imported Chinese goods to stem the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs. Then Ohio governor John Kasich, immediately responding to Trump’s statements, said, in part:
And we do need China — Donald’s right about North Korea. I mean the fact is that they need to put the pressure on and frankly we need to intercepts ships coming out of North Korea so they don’t proliferate all these dangerous materials. But what he’s touching — talking about, I think has got merit. And I’ll allow putting that tariff or whatever he’s saying here….
To which Trump replied to Kasich: “I’m happy to have him tonight.” Trump’s only compliment of the night elicited laughter from the audience.
Given that Kasich agrees with Trump on China — one of Trump’s signature issues — Trump’s compliment could be interpreted as a sign that he will consider Kasich as his potential running mate. Such a ticket might act as a marriage between a brazen outsider and a member of the GOP establishment. A Trump/Kasich ticket could even end up being a truce signaling that party peace is at hand.
When I mentioned a Trump/Kasich ticket to a well-known veteran Republican campaign strategist who thus far has been anti-Trump, his response was “Vedddy interesting. Like it.”
Looking for another opinion, I asked a Trump-leaning national GOP consultant who said emphatically, “That ticket will defeat Hillary.”
Then, on the record, longtime GOP operative Roger Stone said he liked the idea and told me, “Kasich carrying Ohio for the ticket is more likely than Rubio carrying Florida.”
Besides bringing about a marriage of party factions, here is what Kasich would bring to a Trump ticket.
Kasich is a popular incumbent two-term governor of Ohio, a state that, historically, every Republican presidential candidate has won on his path to a White House. An added plus for Kasich is that the Republican National Convention will be held in Cleveland this year.
Kasich has all the traditional presidential experience. He served in Congress for 18 years, including membership on the House Armed Services Committee, earning him national-security credentials. In 1985 he became chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he was chief architect of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997.
In 2010 Kasich was elected Ohio’s governor, and he was reelected in 2014 with 63.8% of the vote. Under Kasich’s leadership, Ohio’s economy has rebounded, and he uses the state’s success story as part of his presidential platform.
Kasich does not scare independents, moderates, or conservative Democrats. His decades of congressional and gubernatorial experience could help shepherd Trump’s agenda through Congress.
Kasich is a safe, familiar face to Republicans after years of hosting his own show on the Fox News Channel, and now through his presidential candidacy. Kasich could help make Trump’s nomination more palatable to nervous Republican leaders and “the establishment.” Most important, Kasich is highly qualified to take over as president if something happened.
Back in August, I wrote a piece titled: “Five Reasons Why Kasich-Rubio Is the Right 2016 Ticket.” In it I detailed all the political, electoral, and résumé reasons why Kasich would be the GOP’s best choice to win the White House.
All those same reasons, plus serving as a “rational leveler” to the flamboyant man at the top of the ticket, are why the Ohio governor could be Trump’s most suitable running mate.
My only firm 2016 prediction is that nothing predictable will happen. But if Trump manages to win the nomination, and before the GOP establishment jumps off a cliff, Kasich could be Trump’s rope to pull them back from the edge.
Cross-posted at National Review Online