Wow, John Kasich.
The governor of Ohio is not normally a person you’d connect with a “wow.” Maybe a “jeepers.” Or a “huh!” But here he is! The medium-size, crinkly-eyed boulder between the Republican Party and Donald Trump.
Kasich got more than 40 percent of the vote in Ohio, which might be the only non-Trump-triumphant saga of the night. There was a time, people, when you would really not have been throwing confetti in the air just because a Republican governor who believes “you’ve got to help people that are downtrodden and poor” won the presidential primary in his own state. But we are where we are.
“I labored in obscurity for so long!” said the triumphant governor, whose most celebrated victory until now was coming in second in New Hampshire with 16 percent of the vote. Now he’s having dreams about a contested convention where delegates flee from the specters of Trump and Ted Cruz into his arms.
In the Republican debates, Kasich was a sort of fuzzy presence, the guy on the end who kept talking about the House budget committee in 1997. Or being positive. At times it was like a bunch of gladiators smashing into one another at the coliseum while one chipper combatant wandered around shaking his head and urging everybody to get along.
Can Kasich go all the way? Doesn’t seem likely. But then Ohio does like to call itself the Mother of Presidents. Eight came from Ohio in one way or another. True, that included Warren Harding and William Henry Harrison, who lasted for only a month. But on the plus side there’s … William McKinley.
Right now he certainly seems like the only non-appalling option the Republicans have, even though there are a lot of people in Ohio right now who are shaking their heads in stupefaction at the sight of their governor as the nation’s poster boy for moderation. He’s signed an absolute mountain of anti-abortion bills – nearly half of the clinics in the state have shut down during his tenure. His enthusiasm for giving public funding to private, for-profit schools has been scandalous. And on the economic front he has the usual conservative contempt for taxing residents according to their ability to pay.
But he doesn’t think we should ban Muslims or deport millions of immigrants. And there’s always that thing about the downtrodden. This year, it’s as good as the Republicans can hope for. And the other options are so really, really bad.