Coming soon to the Democratic convention: John Kasich?

This plays like a joke given how feeble Kasich turned out to be against Trump in the 2016 primary and how irrelevant he’s been to the national Republican scene for years. When Zell Miller pulled this trick at the 2004 GOP convention, crossing the aisle to endorse the other party’s candidate, he had the advantages of being a sitting senator and a speaker who was charismatic as hell.

Kasich isn’t a sitting anything right now. (Well, a sitting contributor to CNN, I guess.) And he is, ah, not charismatic as hell.

But I’m loath to second-guess Team Biden, as they’ve been canny in their strategy thus far. And Sleepy Joe does have one obvious compelling reason to want Kasich at his convention. He and Trump are tied at 44.7 percent apiece today in Kasich’s home state of Ohio in the RCP average. Trump won there by eight points in 2016 but there’s every indication this year that Ohio is in play. Ohio also happens to be the one primary that Kasich won when he ran for president four years ago. If his endorsement is worth so much as one percent among fencesitters in OH, it’s potentially decisive.

I think there’s a broader reason for Biden wanting Kasich and any other reasonably well-known Republican he can find to vouch for him at the Democratic convention. The more he can create a sense that centrist GOPers are crossing over for him en masse, the more he might be able to create a so-called “permission structure” for rank-and-file moderate Republicans to do the same. There’s evidence in polling that they’re doing that already, as Trump consistently loses more Republicans to Biden in head-to-head polling than Biden loses Democrats to Trump. I think Team Joe wants to create a sense of a “dam break” in the center-right towards him, aided and abetted by Never Trump groups like the Lincoln Project and Republican Voters Against Trump. The more “normal” it seems for GOPers who are leery of POTUS to vote Biden, the less cognitive dissonance they’ll feel when they think about doing it.

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and frequent Trump critic, has been approached and is expected to speak at the Democratic National Convention on Biden’s behalf next month, according to a person with direct knowledge of the plans who insisted on anonymity to discuss strategy. Kasich is among a handful of high-profile Republicans likely to become more active in supporting Biden in the fall…

Biden’s team would not confirm specific discussions with Kasich, but deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield acknowledged the campaign has begun working with Republicans, just as it has worked with progressives in recent months. At the least, she said GOP backers could help mute Trump’s efforts to paint Biden as a tool of the left.

“In terms of Republican supporters, I think it speaks to a career of being able to work across the aisle, of being able to actually get things done,” Bedingfield said. “We welcome the support of anybody who’d rather see Joe Biden be president than Donald Trump.”

Excellent point. I noted yesterday that Trump managed to gain 11 points in a month among senior citizens in Fox News’s latest poll, presumably because he’s made some progress in convincing seniors that the Biden/Bernie fusion that’s going on right now among Democrats will produce a president who’s more like Bernie than like Biden. Having Kasich and other Republicans vouch for Biden signals that he’s not so far left that a centrist Republican can’t support him in good conscience.

The guy they really want at the Democratic convention, I’m sure, is Mitt Romney, but I believe Romney’s already said that he won’t vote for either party’s candidate this year. He’s tested Utah Republicans’ patience with him by voting to remove Trump by office; the more grand gestures he makes against Trump, the more unelectable he becomes — and, as importantly, the less sway he’s apt to have in the Senate Republican caucus over the next four years no matter how the election turns out. Romney won’t do it. If Biden wants an election-year anti-Trump speech by Mitt, all he needs to do is cue up this golden oldie from 2016 and play it for convention viewers.

An ominous line from the AP piece excerpted above: “Republicans working on congressional races across several battleground states believe the nation’s suburbs, where higher-educated white voters have traditionally favored the GOP, are almost completely lost for Trump.” Yesterday ABC/WaPo released a poll showing Trump ahead by four among suburban men and trailing among suburban women by … 36, which shows you where the sense of this demographic being “completely lost” is coming from. No Democrat has won the suburbs by more than five points since 1972, Harry Enten pointed out in a post recently; Trump himself beat Clinton by 10 points there four years ago. Biden leads by nine in the suburbs per yesterday’s poll, meaning that we’re seeing a 20-point partisan turnaround(!) on net from the 2016 election.

Where’s POTUS supposed to get the votes to make up for that deficit? Increasingly it seems like he has a three-part strategy for victory. One, which accounts for 90 percent of the plan: Say and do anything possible to further ramp up excitement among the righty base. He needs every populist in the country at the polls for him on November 3. Two: Continue to attack Biden as a tool of the left who’ll replace Congress with Antifa and hope that that’s enough to keep some of those centrist Republicans (including and especially suburbanites) who are being wooed by Democrats in the fold. Three: Try to convince Biden’s base that he’s not worth showing up for. Trump had some success with that strategy four years ago, as black turnout fell off for Hillary Clinton from its 2012 high — a development that was probably fatal to her chances. If Trump can repeat the feat this year, the gains Biden is hoping to make in the center may be offset by losses on the left. He’s going to try to repeat it:

Trump’s team is airing TV advertisements aimed at Black and Latino voters that attack the presumptive Democratic nominee over his past support of the 1994 crime bill, which led to increased incarceration, particularly among people of color, as well as his mental fitness in Spanish-language spots. It’s a sign that Trump aides, while struggling to find a consistent and effective line of attack against Biden, have settled on at least one strategy: dilute Biden’s strength among minority voters…

One particular source of concern for Democrats is that, despite Trump’s troubles, Biden is still polling somewhat behind Clinton among Latinos. A June NPR-Marist survey found that 59 percent of Latino voters said they are backing Biden, compared with the 66 to 79 percent who cast a ballot for Clinton in 2016. An Economist/YouGov poll this month showed his Latino support at 62 percent.

It’s amazing that Biden’s been able to maintain a big national lead despite that lukewarm support from Latinos. On the one hand, it’s hopeful for the GOP: Maybe Trump really can succeed in holding down Democratic turnout enough in swing states to get to 270. On the other hand, it suggests that Biden still has room to grow despite his big lead. If he’s leading by nine points nationally with 59 percent Latino support, what happens if/when Latino undecideds begin to break for him?

In lieu of an exit question, go read this Times piece about Republican donors beginning to wrestle with the question of when it’s time to start focusing on Senate races in the belief that the presidency is a lost cause. If Trump’s a goner then the only thing standing between America and the Biden/Bernie agenda is a Republican Senate. And various Senate Republican candidates are being badly outraised by their Democratic opponents right now. Trump has enough of a lead on Biden in fundraising that it’s probably worth it for the donor class to begin steering contributions to the Senate immediately. If the presidential race tightens up again in September and Trump 2.0 begins to look like a better investment then they can revisit that calculation.

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Jazz Shaw 9:20 AM | April 19, 2024