Democrats' Kasich Strategy Is Misguided


Donald Trump just won a landslide victory in New York's Republican presidential primary, and Ted Cruz spent his week figuring out how to pilfer unpledged delegates from states like Pennsylvania, but it was distant third-place Republican John Kasich that the Democrats set their sights on this week.

"Why is John Kasich still in the race?" was the subject line of an April 20 email in which the Democratic National Committee blasted the Ohio governor for spending taxpayer money -- $350,000 in travel funds -- on his presidential run, and poked fun at him for the measly three delegates he picked up in New York.

The email pointed out that Kasich still doesn't have as many delegates as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who dropped out of the race more than a month ago, and then it hit him where it really hurts: pointing out he's spent 177 days outside of the state he governs in order to continue his presidential campaign.

You'd think that would be a smart strategy for the Democrats, but no. It only opens them up to return volleys pointing out that their top-tier politicians have been much, much worse when it comes to shirking the responsibilities of their current offices to run for higher office.

In 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama skipped 64.3 percent of senate votes during the length of his campaign, according to an analysis by the Daily Mail. Obama was a complete stranger to his constituents in Illinois during the run-up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary, when he missed almost 90 percent of senate votes in the last quarter of 2007.

But Obama's a lame-duck president. He's leaving office, not running for it. So what about Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner who fears Kasich so much?

Clinton, who was New York's junior senator at the time, was absent even more than Obama was. She missed 68.4 percent of senate votes during the length of her presidential campaign, until she was finally forced to suspend her run in June of 2008.

Democrats really ought to have thought about those numbers, and how bad they look, before pointing a finger at Kasich, who looks like the model of perfect attendance in comparison.

Why are they attacking Kasich anyway, if he can't seem to pull even with his Republican rivals?

The soft-spoken Ohio governor might be running a distant third in the primaries, but polls about a hypothetical head-to-head match-up between Clinton and Kasich have repeatedly pegged Kasich as the winner. He's the only Republican who convincingly defeats Clinton in every poll on the subject. Thus, Hillary fears the result of an anything-can-happen GOP convention if Kasich remains in the race.

There are other metrics that the Clinton camp's wary about, as well.

Kasich is hardly a standard-bearer for women. He didn't do himself any favors in February when, according to the Wall Street Journal, he told a crowd in Fairfax, Virginia that women in his home state "left their kitchens" to help campaign for him in the 1970s.

Yet Clinton -- and the Democrats -- would much rather face Trump, who is viewed negatively by 73 percent of likely female voters, according to a CNN poll. A late March Wall Street Journal poll found that almost half of female GOP voters would not support Trump, and that percentage becomes even more dismal among the general electorate.

So from the perspective of the Democrats and the Clinton camp, it's pretty clear -- they'd rather face the windy and verbose loose cannon who is widely loathed by at least two of their core constituents, than face a politician who consistently bests their candidate in polls, has extensive executive experience, and excels at appealing to moderates.

But Democrats have to be careful. Americans don't like being told who to vote for. In Clinton's case, it could backfire, much as it did in 2008 when Clinton disparaged Obama's positive campaign pitches.

In The New York Times, former Obama strategist David Axelrod generously describes Clinton's attitude as containing “a little trace of entitlement."

That's an understatement. Democrats should let cooler heads prevail, and ease back on attacking Kasich, before their criticism backfires. That's especially true in 2016, a year in which voters have repeatedly repudiated any attempt by the powerful to tell them who to vote for.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The New York Times, Real Clear Politics (2), Washington Examiner, Wall Street Journal, American Thinker / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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