Kasich: Yes on possibly allowing illegals to become citizens, no on attacking Hillary Clinton

I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it too: Sign. Me. Up.

In fairness to him, grassroots conservatives aren’t his target audience any more than they are Jeb Bush’s. If you’re a moderate who’s looking for someone with executive experience who’s not Jeb, maybe this plays:

In an interview with National Journal, Kasich pledged another atypical tactic: He’s not going to attack any of his opponents—Hillary Clinton included—and will instead focus on offering solutions to the nation’s pressing problems. He lived up to that commitment in his town hall meetings this week, not mentioning Clinton’s name at all and avoiding referencing any of his GOP opponents.

“If I’m talking about someone else, I’m not talking about me. And I would rather them know what my record is and my passion is. So if I’m spending my time attacking other people, that doesn’t get me anywhere. Frankly, it’s not what people want. They want to know: Do you have a record, do you have solutions, can you lead?” Kasich said. “It’s a lot more important for me to cement that down than getting people hooting and hollering.”…

Not only did Kasich avoid talking about Hillary Clinton during the two town halls I attended, he barely mentioned President Obama, either. He regularly reiterates his support for Medicaid expansion in Ohio. He praised Massachusetts’s educational standards as the best in the country while responding to a question about Common Core. On issues ranging from education to transportation to welfare, he bashed the federal government’s ineffectiveness in handling those matters—but championed active statewide government programs in their place.

“He has a track record and an optimism that government can be tamed and shrunk,” said conservative-bashing Kasich advisor John Weaver about a guy who once replied to critics of his Medicaid expansion with, “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small.” As for amnesty, Kasich makes clear in the clip below that while he’d prefer to avoid a path to citizenship for illegals, he’s not taking anything off the table. Interestingly, Jeb Bush would have you believe that he draws the line on amnesty at permanent legal residence for illegals, not citizenship; if you take Bush at his word, then Kasich (like Marco Rubio) is actually to Bush’s left on immigration. Here’s what he told an audience yesterday at one of his New Hampshire town halls:

Mr. Kasich, an Ohio Republican, started off sounding like a border hawk, saying he wanted to “finish the wall” along the border with Mexico.

But when he answered the question at hand, he sounded a far more pragmatic note. “If they’ve been law-abiding, then I think they should stay,” he said, referring to immigrants in this country illegally…

Won’t letting illegal immigrants stay in the country, the voter asked, mean that they will “end up on the system like everybody else?”…

“No, I think that a lot of these people who are here are some of the hardest-working, God-fearing, family-oriented people you can ever meet,” he shot back, winning scattered applause.

So, yes to legalization for illegals at a minimum, which places him … squarely in line with everyone else in the field including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, to the extent that Trump has a coherent immigration policy at all. Essentially, if your vote turns on amnesty, you need to try to gauge which Republican candidates as president really would refuse to budge once Democrats started demanding that legal status lead to full citizenship. The only one with a realistic shot at the nomination who might try to hold the line, I think, is Cruz. His conservative cred, his political lifeblood, would be shattered if he didn’t. Bush, Rubio, Walker, and Kasich will all fold in the interest of “getting the issue off the table” while vowing “no more amnesties after this” or whatever.

For what it’s worth, when Gallup gave Republican voters a binary choice between allowing illegals to become citizens “after meeting requirements” and merely allowing them to remain in the U.S. to work for a limited time, 50 percent of GOPers preferred the first option versus just 18 percent who preferred the second — although those numbers were down from a 58/21 split nine years ago. Exit question via John Ziegler: Kasich isn’t the only candidate in the race who’s gone conspicuously easy on Hillary lately, is he?