Ohio has burrowed itself deep in impeached president Donald Trump, who may or may not be hiding in his bunker at this time. It’s not a state that will decide the presidency. Trump won it by eight points in 2016, and if he loses it this year (and chances are growing by the day), he will already have lost Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and several other states—giving presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden more than enough electoral votes to end our long national nightmare. Yet his campaign has now made Ohio the second-largest recipient of advertising dollars, behind only Florida.
So how do you think Trump will react when he finds out that former Ohio two-term Republican governor John Kasich is scheduled to speak at the Democratic National Convention? Hilarious, right?
The Daily Beast has leaked details on Democratic plans for the mostly online convention, which includes the information on Kasich’s participation. The Associated Press has more information on the Kasich coup, and adds this hint: “Kasich is among a handful of high-profile Republicans likely to become more active in supporting Biden in the fall.” The Biden campaign, feeling secure in its base, is clearly focused on expanding his potential base of support, and the never-Trump crowd, while small, could have a big impact in close races up and down the ballot.
Ohio is a perfect example, a state in which Trump’s standing has fallen more precipitously during the coronavirus pandemic (and because of it) than most places.
As noted in a previous analysis, Trump’s general election matchup numbers are closely correlated to his approval numbers. His 47% approvals here means he’s getting between 47-49% in the head-to-head matchups versus Biden. That’s enough for victory, but barely. Trump is hanging on for dear life in a state that he comfortably won in 2016, and which shouldn’t be in play given its demographics—mostly white, mostly non-college.
Meanwhile, Kasich left office a popular politician, with a 52-36 rating the last time Quinnipiac checked in before he was termed out of office in 2018. But even then, there were storm clouds that hinted at a party split: “Ohio Gov. John Kasich gets a 52-36 percent job approval rating, doing better with Democrats than he does with his fellow Republicans, Democrats approve of Kasich 57-33 percent. Republicans are divided as 46 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove.” You see, he had run against Trump in the 2016 Republican primary, and Trump hit him for, among other things, giving his state’s residents health care via Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
The campaign eventually ended, but the feud never did. For example, here was a typical interaction between the two, in 2018:
Pretty good, right? Kasich also attacked his party for looking the other way as Trump made a mockery of party orthodoxy, steel and aluminum tariffs, as well as for tolerating Trump’s attacks on national institutions like the FBI and the Justice Department. After the 2019 Dayton mass shooting, Kasich called Trump “sensitive” and “thin-skinned.”
Kasich spent some seconds this year “running against Trump in the GOP primary,” but no one took that seriously. The Republican Party is the Party of Trump, and vice versa. There’s no longer any room for Kasich-style moderate fiscal conservatives in the GOP. We don’t want them either! But at least this year, those never-Trumpers realize the damage that Trump is doing to the country. As Kasich told the Washington Post, “[The Republican Party] coddled this guy the whole time and now it’s like some rats are jumping off of the sinking ship. It’s just a little late. It’s left this nation with a crescendo of hate not only between politicians but between citizens. ... It started with Charlottesville and people remained silent then, and we find ourselves in this position now.”
Kasich may be the highest-profile Republican to flip to Biden right now, but there is definitely something happening among Republicans. Look at Trump’s approval ratings among Republicans:
So 87-9 seems ridiculously high, right? Except that during the impeachment hearings, that number was 91-6. That means that in just a few short months, Trump has lost a net-seven points of support among Republicans.
Don’t scoff. Every Republican that gives up on Trump is one less vote. They may vote for Biden and say the heck with it, they’ll vote for Democrats in critical Senate and House races. Or maybe they stay home in frustration, which is almost as good.
Every Republican defection makes it harder for Trump to bounce back. How is he going to expand his coalition if he can’t even hold on to his own core base?
Kasich isn’t a play to win Ohio. We don’t need Ohio. Let Trump piss his money away on a state that is irrelevant to whether he wins or loses. While there are two Republican-held House seats that could be in play, control of the U.S. House isn’t at stake.
But there are Republicans who aren’t happy being associated with a racist sociopath who is putting our children at risk to boost his reelection chances, and Kasich is a signal to them freeing them from Trumpism. There are alternatives. Because this thing, whatever it is that Republicanism has become? It really hasn’t quite worked out well for the country now, has it.
But even if Kasich doesn’t swing a single vote—which is quite possible—the inevitable Trump tantrum will be reason enough to stand up and clap. You know it’ll be glorious.