Hope doesn’t get you GOP del­e­gates

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Dana Mil­bank

— John Ka­sich, at a cam­paign stop in Rockville on Mon­day, ex­plained why Repub­li­can vot­ers aren’t buy­ing what he’s sell­ing.

“I’m try­ing to ped­dle hope,” said the Ohio gov­er­nor. “Hope in the short term doesn’t get you a lot of at­ten­tion, be­cause hope’s too pos­i­tive. Neg­a­tive is what works.”

As if on cue, a man in the back row, en­raged that a Fox Busi­ness correspondent’s live stand-up was dis­tract­ing him from the can­di­date’s pos­i­tive words about hope, turned around and bel­lowed at the press ris­ers: “Shut up!”

If self-right­eous­ness were a state and not just a state of mind, John Ka­sich would win its pri­mary hand­ily. But there is no such com­mon­wealth. And here in the United States of Anger in 2016, Mr. Nice Guy has strug­gled to lift off.

“I’ve got a new plan,” Ka­sich told the few hun­dred sup­port­ers seated in a gym­na­sium in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urb. “I’m go­ing to go down to the Kennedy Space Cen­ter. I’m go­ing to get in the rocket, have a short flight, land in wa­ter, be fetched out of the ocean by a big Navy ship and have a press con­fer­ence. The only rea­son I might not do it is they might not pick me up.”

If naval res­cuers are any­thing like this year’s Repub­li­can vot­ers, they might not even notice he splashed down.

Yet hope-filled Ka­sich some­how re­mains op­ti­mistic about his can­di­dacy, which is why he en­tered Sun­day night into an un­ortho­dox al­liance with Ted Cruz to try to force Don­ald Trump into a con­tested con­ven­tion. Un­der their agree­ment, Ka­sich won’t con­test In­di­ana, to boost Cruz’s chances there, and Cruz won’t cam­paign in New Mex­ico and Ore­gon, to as­sist Ka­sich.

Ka­sich seems to think it isn’t too late. He gamely de­clared Mon­day that of the 10 times Repub­li­cans have had open con­ven­tions, the front-run­ner has been re­jected seven times. What Ka­sich didn’t note: This hasn’t hap­pened in 76 years.

An hour be­fore Ka­sich took the stage, Trump was do­ing what he does best: in­sult­ing peo­ple. He called Cruz a “pain in the ass” and Ka­sich a stub­born child who has “dis­gust­ing” eat­ing habits. He ac­cused the two of them of “col­lud­ing” — and said that’s il­le­gal in busi­ness.

But in pol­i­tics, al­liances aren’t il­le­gal — they’re es­sen­tial. The only out­rage about the anti- Trump al­liance is that one didn’t hap­pen sooner, when it could have done some good. Had the can­di­dates ganged


up on Trump months ago, they surely could have beaten the bully.

Now the Ka­sichCruz al­liance looks to be a few months late and a few mil­lion votes short, even as more Repub­li­cans come to terms with the hor­ror of Trump as the nom­i­nee. The con­ser­va­tive bil­lion­aire Charles Koch, who was largely silent dur­ing the pri­maries, just said, “I don’t know how we could sup­port” Trump. In an in­ter­view with ABC’s Jon Karl, Koch called Trump’s call to reg­is­ter all Mus­lims “rem­i­nis­cent of Nazi Ger­many,” and he called it “fright­en­ing” that Cruz’s talk of car­pet­bomb­ing the Mid­dle East would ap­peal to Amer­i­cans. Koch even said it’s “pos­si­ble” he would sup­port Clin­ton over the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee.

Ka­sich at times al­ready seems to be talk­ing about his can­di­dacy as if it were in the past — a rea­son­able tense to use for a man who would need 158 per­cent of re­main­ing del­e­gates to se­cure the nom­i­na­tion. “I am a fun­da­men­tal be­liever in ideas,” he told The Wash­ing­ton Post’s ed­i­to­rial board last week. “And frankly, my Repub­li­can Party doesn’t like ideas.”

In the Rockville gym, one of Ka­sich’s fans car­ried a hand- let­tered sign: “Don’t be so an­gry. You can’t think straight. Vote Ka­sich.” That mes­sage may make sense in the wealthy Wash­ing­ton sub­urbs, where many work for the fed­eral govern­ment. Con­nie Morella, a mod­er­ate Repub­li­can who once rep­re­sented the area in Congress, in­tro­duced Ka­sich with a lengthy treat­ment of his leg­isla­tive bona fides, and Ka­sich spoke about dou­bling med­i­cal re­search spend­ing, fight­ing man-made cli­mate change and op­pos­ing the “ab­surd” idea of de­port­ing 11 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants.

“Ev­ery­thing you say — it res­onates,” a woman told Ka­sich dur­ing the Q&A. So why, she asked, is “the rest of the U.S. not pick­ing up on that?”

“At the end of the day,” Ka­sich replied, “peo­ple don’t want to live ... in ten­sion, neg­a­tiv­ity, con­flict.” As ev­i­dence, he pointed to a new poll in New Hamp­shire show­ing that Repub­li­cans who voted in that state’s pri­mary would now fa­vor Ka­sich over Trump at a con­tested con­ven­tion, 26 per­cent to 22 per­cent.

Alas, Trump al­ready won the New Hamp­shire pri­mary. And buyer’s re­morse isn’t go­ing to get Ka­sich the nom­i­na­tion.

Dana Mil­bank is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at danamil­bank@wash­post.com.

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