A tasty leftover from the Sunday shows via Red State. Tapper’s asking him about this splashy yet hard-to-believe NYT story from a few weeks ago alleging that Trump’s son, Donald Jr, dialed up the Kasich campaign in May and offered to let Kasich be shadow president under Trump. Kasich would agree to become VP, uniting the party and giving Trump a strong hand in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and in return Kasich would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy while President Trump went off and did whatever the hell he imagines presidents do. Holding rallies, I guess. Was any of that true, Tapper wanted to know.
Oh yeah, says Kasich. My aide confirmed it. Although I never got a call from the campaign myself.
Question: Wouldn’t this offer have been sufficiently interesting to Kasich to at least warrant one direct phone call about it? It’s not every day you get a chance to be de facto president of the United States. If Kasich is telling the truth here — big if — and the idea didn’t appeal to him enough for him to have even broached the subject personally with a Trump staffer, he must be one of America’s most ardent #NeverTrumpers. Which makes his primary strategy of hanging around just long enough to cripple Ted Cruz by splitting the anti-Trump vote even stranger in hindsight.
Or maybe Kasich simply figured that Trump and all of his top aides are incorrigible liars and that, having once joined the ticket as VP, he’d quickly discover that they had no intention of letting him set policy. What could Kasich do in that case? Quit the ticket dramatically and risk sabotaging the Republican nominee’s campaign? Or keep quiet, suck it up, and content himself with being one heartbeat away from the presidency?
I assume Mike Pence didn’t get this same offer, as he had less to offer Trump than Kasich did in terms of name recognition and Pennsylvania/Ohio appeal. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing for conservatives to watch this and be left wondering how much power Trump’s underlings, starting with Pence, might have in the administration. The strongest case for voting for Trump to an anti-Trump righty is the possibility that Trump himself will be mainly a figurehead president, with actual conservatives setting policy while he runs around in a MAGA hat high-fiving people. If he’s not going to do anything weirdly authoritarian, if Mike Pence is going to be picking Supreme Court justices, then forget about #NeverTrump. He’s obviously worth supporting. I wonder if the polling remains grim this fall whether Team Trump might start pushing that idea subtly, that his deputies will enjoy unusually broad freedom to set policy in his administration. That’s risky insofar as it would undercut Trump’s image as the superhero politician who’s going to singlehandedly set things right in America, but it would help a bit with the idea that he’s dangerously unqualified for the job. Mike Pence isn’t dangerously unqualified. Good enough, no?