THE HEARTLAND — OK, OK. I’m in Ohio, watching Gov. John Kasich become the 16th announced candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, proclaiming he represents the nation’s heartland. Is this awesome or what?
Or what. Kasich has an uphill battle to get into the Aug. 6 debate, sponsored by Fox News, which has decided it will anoint the top 10 Republican presidential candidates based on five polls.
Kasich is one of the most qualified people running for president, but he has almost no chance of being elected. He’s late to announce, and few people outside of Ohio know him. Yet Fox may kill his chances even to be heard because right now in the polls he is not among the top 10.
It’s not fair.
Kasich, a former congressman, is a second-term governor of a state whose residents say that 72 percent of them are satisfied that the state is going in the right direction. Also, (political mantra kicking in here) no Republican has ever been elected to the White House without winning Ohio. Eat your heart out, presidential hopeful Chris Christie, failed governor of New Jersey, lucky that three out of 10 of his constituents are happy with his leadership.
Folks, these are mischievous times. The nation’s pre-eminent dork leads the pack of GOP candidates. (That would be a buffoon named Trump who has yet to announce any serious policy issue except that he hates undocumented workers — although he employs them— and has disputed the heroism of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.)
Trump leads among would-be GOP voters (prediction: only briefly) because this is summer and people are tired of politics and he has a lot of money and he doesn’t play by any rules. Go figure.
On the day Kasich announced, Trump made public the private cell phone number of one of McCain’s best friends, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another GOP presidential candidate, whom Trump also disdains. That’s what he does — ridicule everyone else.
It is pathetic that Trump is being taken seriously. But, hey, it’s summer and we’re bored, and he is a flash in the pan, as in a reference to fool’s gold in them thar hills.
Back to Kasich, a politician who should be taken seriously. (Personal note: I am a fan of his boisterous love of rock and roll, down-home style, budgetary discipline and decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio while noting that in the Great Beyond love of small government may well count for less than helping the poor.)
Kasich also has serious flaws, most notably his refusal to recognize that new voting laws that discriminate against minorities are morally wrong and a hindrance to his party.
At this point in time (a wonderful euphemism for who knows what will happen), it seems likely that Jeb Bush, the ex-governor of Florida, with well over $100 million in contributions — and he’s just getting started — will get the Republican nomination and will name Kasich as his running mate. Florida and Ohio! On the same ticket! And don’t forget that the GOP convention is in Cleveland. Really!
That means Hillary Clinton, certain to get the Democratic nomination (or so it seems at this point in time) has to battle hard to win Ohio and Florida, key to winning. Politicos think she will consider Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown to run with her. Clinton-Brown? Hardly euphonious.
It’s like Netflix’s House of Cards, except that Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey are actors and this is real. Well, sort of, until Trump is out of contention.
Kasich deserves his few moments on the stage in the August debate. Come on, Fox. Be fair and balanced.
This is what happens when the media calls the shots. Media helped create Trump by trumpeting his outrageous comments. Now Fox’s decision to host an early debate and decide who gets to be on stage (via currently meaningless polls) has strengthened him.
And you thought politics in August 15 months before the presidential election was dull.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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