Published on TheHill.com on April 12, 2016
Question: Why is John Kasich running for president?
Answer: To be Donald Trump’s vice president.
Question: So why is he still fighting for delegates?
Answer: To have a dowry to present to Trump in return for the VP nod.
The nuptials are scheduled for July 18 in Cleveland. Save the date.
The groom: Donald Trump, who’s in danger of falling 200 or 300 votes short of a first-ballot nomination. He knows that Ted Cruz has out-organized him for the second ballot, when the Cruz delegates can rip off their Trump shirts and flaunt their true loyalty. So he realizes that he must go for broke and win at all costs on the first ballot. He never much liked John Kasich, but he’s growing on him.
The bride: John Kasich, who has no other path to the nomination and is term-limited as Ohio’s governor. He faces an early retirement in 2018 if he doesn’t get nominated for something this year. He also never really clicked with The Donald, but the mutual attraction is growing.
The dowry: Kasich now has 143 delegates but hopes to pick up 50 or 60 more in New York and other nearby states so he can present to Trump enough first-ballot delegates to get him nominated. Much of the dowry consists of delegates from Ohio, where as governor Kasich can presumably enforce his will on how they vote on the second ballot. For the others, he just has to hope he picked the right people.
Does Kasich want to be vice president? Nobody does until they do. En route to a future vice presidency, Nelson Rockefeller once said, “I never wanted to be vice president of anything.” And then he was, under Gerald Ford, where he served with appropriate anonymity.
Being Trump’s VP is no bargain for anyone. The Donald is not exactly the collegial sort; it’s usually his way or the highway. But even a lonely office in the White House is better than political vagrancy and unemployment outside it.
How will Kasich’s supporters react to his new marriage? Most are liberals who will look askance at a ticket with Trump and may be reluctant to be his enablers. But they have in common their loyalty to Kasich and their IOU for getting elected on his slate, so they’ll go along.
And Trump’s people? It will cause a momentary pang that he is turning to a pro–amnesty establishment candidate for his vice president, but they can read the math as well as anybody. They likely realize that Trump cannot get into the final unless he first makes a stop at the altar.
But will Trump’s stop at the altar alter Trump? Not likely. The Donald is The Donald and will ever remain so. It’s hard to see him deferring to Kasich’s views on anything. Trump may be a great husband — all his exes say so — but one doubts how generous a political partner he would be.
This very independence will lead Trump’s voters to accept their new vice president with stoicism.
Where will this leave Cruz or those who feel a Trump nomination would be a disaster for the party and worry that Trump cannot overcome his high negative rating among women? Out in the cold.
Can Cruz stop the nuptials? Can he be the one who stands and registers his objection when the minister asks if there are any?
Only if he can hold Kasich below the dowry of delegates necessary to nominate Trump.
Cruz and his supporters have to see their opposition as Trump plus Kasich and not deceive themselves that they face a divided opposition.
Realpolitik will prevail.
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