Re­jec­tion of Trump both helped and hurt im­age

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

WILM­ING­TON, OHIO | Ohio Gov. John Ka­sich’s po­lit­i­cal fu­ture is go­ing to be linked to his de­ci­sion to dump Donald Trump in the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, break­ing his pledge to sup­port the even­tual Repub­li­can nom­i­nee, and so­lid­i­fy­ing his im­age as a po­lar­iz­ing fig­ure that ap­pears ea­ger to put his im­print on the party.

The public split with Mr. Trump bol­stered Mr. Ka­sich’s im­age among Repub­li­cans re­pulsed by the New York Repub­li­can’s brash­ness.

It also fur­ther alien­ated grass­roots ac­tivists both in­side and out­side Ohio who say Mr. Ka­sich is not con­ser­va­tive enough for them and scoff at his at­tempts to claim the moral high ground.

“He could be po­si­tion­ing him­self for 2020, but it is a dicey prospect be­cause the Trump sup­port­ers will re­mem­ber that he would not sup­port Trump,” said Paul Beck, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of po­lit­i­cal science at the Ohio State Univer­sity. “So it is a chancy for Ka­sich I think.”

Mr. Ka­sich’s sole vic­tory in the Repub­li­can pri­mary came in Ohio and he helped pro­longed the race by ig­nor­ing calls to step aside, to clear the decks for an­other can­di­date to op­pose Mr. Trump one-on-one.

Some of Mr. Trump’s other pri­mary ri­vals, in­clud­ing for­mer Flor­ida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina, also went back on their pledge to sup­port the party’s nom­i­nee, who­ever that may be, but they have gen­er­ally stayed out of the lime­light — un­like Mr. Ka­sich.

The 64-year-old scored head­lines when he skipped Mr. Trump’s corona­tion at the Repub­li­can Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Cleve­land, but at­tended events out­side the arena.

He la­beled Mr. Trump’s rhetoric dan­ger­ous, and joined Pres­i­dent Obama at a press con­fer­ence in Septem­ber in which he urged Congress to sup­port the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal that Mr. Trump op­posed, a stance that has helped the ty­coon with work­ing­class white vot­ers.

Mr. Ka­sich ar­gued free trade was good for the na­tion, and that he was tak­ing the high road, say­ing he wel­comes “the fact that peo­ple will crit­i­cize me for putting my coun­try ahead of my party.”

The last straw for Trump back­ers came when he re­fused to fol­low through with the prom­ise he made in the pri­mary to back the even­tual nom­i­nee, and in­stead cast his bal­lot for Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, the party’s 2008 nom­i­nee and top tar­get of crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tive ac­tivists.

“Ka­sich sucks. Sorry ex­cuse my lan­guage. He sucks,” said Dreama Cont­ner, a 51-year-old men­tal health worker. “He has no back­bone. He didn’t stand with the Repub­li­can Party. He acted like a lit­tle brat. We need strong. We don’t need wussies out there.”

Other vot­ers who didn’t wish to be named de­scribed him as “wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing,” pre­dicted “this is prob­a­bly the end of his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.”

Like Ms. Cont­ner, many Trump back­ers said they would never sup­port him if he ran for an­other elected of­fice.

“When you lose, you lose, and you still stand up for your party and back them. You don’t make a ruckus and do ev­ery­thing he did,” she said.

Other Ohio vot­ers, though, said they re­spected Mr. Ka­sich’s move, and said they wish they could have voted for him on Elec­tion Day.

“I would have voted for Ka­sich,” said Ge­or­gialiah Han­nah, who at age 78 had never voted for a Demo­crat in a pres­i­den­tial race and cast a vote for Hil­lary Clin­ton. “I would be for Ka­sich in any way. I re­ally be­lieve in him. Ba­si­cally I trust him.”

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