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Assault on America, Day 237: Democrats and John Kasich, the candidates nobody cares about

John Kasich
It’s inevitable in the political universe yet it’s still a shock whenever it happens.

Speaking of presidential candidates ending their bids for the nation’s highest office, the denouement of a play that never really got started. The last two weeks saw Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee hang up their proverbial microphones, accepting reality -- and acknowledging pathetic poll numbers -- to leave the future glory to those with bigger egos, stockpiles of campaign cash and/or more viable candidacies.

(Note: Congressman Seth Moulton also bowed out, but who even knew he was running?)

California Congressman Eric Swalwell was the first Dem to bow out last month. No one talks about it any longer, and a couple weeks from now no one will remember Hickenlooper or Inslee were even in the race, though the latter is running for another term as governor and the former opted for a senate run against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

As presidential wannabes they’re forever relegated to footnotes on a Wikipedia page. Whatever money they raised and spent was a complete waste. Someone should’ve been kind enough to tell them they had no chance before they made fools of themselves. ‘Tis a shame.

But in a sense, all the Democrats are suffering from a similar type of political malaise. Jonathan Easley reported at The Hill, “Pollsters say one of the most striking characteristics of this cycle’s Democratic presidential primary is the relatively soft support for top-tier candidates, even after an intense focus on the race by the national media.

“This almost certainly reflects the party’s desperation to find a candidate who can defeat President Trump after its faithful were shocked by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, said pollsters and other experts interviewed by The Hill.

“’The fear of putting up the wrong person is palpable,’ said Jeremy Rosner, a veteran Democratic pollster. ‘It comes up in every focus group and every conversation I have with Democrats. It’s top of mind and intense and it’s behind a lot of the fluidity in this race.’ Voters — or at least a large number of them — have yet to fall in love with a single candidate.”

That’s an understatement. Part of the uneasiness is due to the still-very-early nature of the race; another part’s because the presidential campaign cycle is so long these days (basically two years in duration); and then there’s the fact the Democrat field lacks the “star” quality of previous iterations. There isn’t a potential Barack Obama or Bill Clinton among this group. Obama attracted throngs of brain-numbed swooning followers who believed he would bring “Hope and Change” at the stroke of a presidential pen. Heck, Barack had an autobiography titled “Dreams From My Father” and mesmerized onlookers with his golden political voice and gift for promising the impossible (even if he’d never deliver any of it).

Obama even had poor Chris Matthews experiencing a “thrill” up his leg. Sick or sad?

Meanwhile, big bubba Bill Clinton “thrilled” the gullible and comatose in 1992 by playing the saxophone on late night TV (proving he had an abundance of stored up hot air), repeatedly biting his lip and famously claiming “I feel your pain.” Love them or hate them, Bill had the “it” factor. So did Obama. So does Donald Trump at the other end of the political spectrum.

None of the 2020 Democrats dwell in the same amusement park full of “thrills.” Joe Biden could’ve been the pre-ordained Obama heir, though he can’t get time and dates straight, plus his multitude of gaffes suggests he isn’t nearly as colorblind as people think. Uncle Joe’s uttered far too many flubs indicating he sees all minorities as underprivileged poor people who need the benevolent hand of mother government -- led by him of course -- to compete in this cruel world full of rednecks, backwoods bumpkins and ignorant “deplorable” folks.

Whenever Joe says “This is not who we are. America is better than this,” he really sees Trump’s equal treatment for Americans of all colors, religions, backgrounds and national origins as a threat to the popular Democrat notion that prejudices and racism dwells in the heart of every Trump backer. If someone with black or brown skin views themselves as just as capable as everyone else, it’s a loser in Joe’s book.

Biden’s staked his claim to being the Democrat field’s best candidate simply because he’s supposedly the most electable, a premise that’s becoming increasingly flimsy. Joe’s wife Jill made headlines recently by forthrightly admitting her husband may not be as good on certain issues as other candidates (to party voters), but Democrats should nonetheless support him because he’s best positioned to beat Trump. How does such pandering make people feel? You might as well sponsor an empty suit (or pantsuit) as long as stiffs and trusting morons will turn out to vote for him or her.

Below Biden there’s even less “star” quality. Crazy Bernie Sanders isn’t generating the same fervent curiosity he did four years ago against Hillary Clinton. The Bern was the only alternative option opposite the truly awful Hillary, so even a decrepit old socialist with a funny accent and bugged out eyes looked favorable to the desperate. Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren (who also has bug-eyes and mad gestures) is just as off-putting to everyone but her dedicated supporters.

Kamala Harris wowed people for a couple weeks after the June debates but has since slunk back to her position as a top-tier also-ran without much upside potential. “Beto” O’Rourke is a joke -- and has been since the beginning. At first glance “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg seemingly fit the description of a budding breakout star, but a closer examination reveals he doesn’t have much substance beneath his young, homosexual unique-ness. In addition, Buttigieg’s shaky standing with black voters almost guarantees he won’t go anywhere.

Some glimpse star quality in Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (who along with billionaire Tom Steyer is approaching meeting the criteria for inclusion in September’s Democrat debate(s)), but she’d need a lot more highlight moments for people to truly pay attention to her. Plus, she’s one of 435 House members and can’t brag of any legislative accomplishments. True, Gabbard’s a veteran -- but she’s also Hindu and from a state more renowned for waves, hula dancing and pineapples than politics and leadership (Obama was from Illinois, remember?).

Cory Booker has a severe likeability problem. With his campaign centered almost entirely on race, imagine the backlash he’d engender if he were the nominee…? Booker recently promised he’d establish a White House office on White Supremacy if he becomes president. Could a majority of U.S. citizens tolerate such naked solicitation of ethnic groups?

No wonder there’s soft support for the respective Democrat candidates. As a group they look a lot more promising (in an electoral sense) than examining them individually. Every political candidate has defects -- but not necessarily fatal ones. Each 2020 Democrat seemingly has a fatal flaw. It’s a big problem…unless you’re President Trump.

But even Trump has (a little) intra-party opposition. 2016 third-place finisher (only because everyone else dropped out before him) John Kasich is once again making waves, including scheduling an upcoming jaunt to the Granite State. Paul Steinhauser reported at Fox News, “Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans a likely visit to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire next month or in early October, a top Kasich adviser told Fox News.

“A trip by the very vocal critic of President Trump – first reported by The Washington Post – will spark further speculation that Kasich is seriously weighing a long-shot GOP primary challenge against the president.

“’The governor’s never closed the door to challenging Trump,’ senior adviser John Weaver told Fox News.”

Well, I’ve never closed the door to running for president (challenging Trump) either. And I’ve also never ruled out being an astronaut or NFL hall of fame quarterback. Or the human iteration of the tooth fairy. Or a shrimp boat captain like Forrest Gump (after best friend Bubba’s death).

All of these people or things would have roughly the same shot at beating Trump in the 2020 Republican primaries as John Kasich. While it’s true Kasich finished a distant second to Trump in the last New Hampshire primary (in February, 2016), he didn’t catch on anywhere else. Kasich’s only primary win was in his home state, and he never was a serious threat to Ted Cruz to be the party’s second choice.

What makes Kasich think he’d have a better shot this time around? It wasn’t just that he couldn’t challenge Trump for supremacy in the GOP, voters didn’t want him. Not even the anti-Trump/#NeverTrump establishment rallied to Kasich’s banner once it became obvious that the party nominee would be either Trump or Cruz.

Establishmentarians desperately sought a “white knight” candidate to jump in to save everyone from the outsider billionaire non-politician or the uncompromising conservative Cruz. Kasich had no base of support, no major fundraising foundation, no compelling message and no unique selling point. Tea Party voters didn’t trust him, social conservatives avoided him and the grassroots had already found its champion in Trump.

What’s changed in the time since, John?

Not only did Kasich lack strong justifications to run, he typically came across as obstinate and prickly. His opposition to Trump was more personal than principled, pitching a “let’s-all-get-along” message to a party base that craved a spirited fighter and champion rather than another phony “unifying” figure. Is it different now?

The vast majority of presidential candidates run for ego reasons. History’s road is paved with men and women who thought they were exactly what the public was hoping for, a thirst for fame and notoriety that’s only quenched through harsh reality. 2020 features many such dreamers. Who will prevail?

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