Before we get too deep into the Democratic National Convention and the remainder of the 2016 campaign, let's remember some of the fallout from the Republican primaries, the GOP National Convention and a couple of GOP candidates who no doubt will be heard from again.
A tale of 2 Trump Refusniks
Ted Cruz and Donald Trump have had a complicated relationship over the past year. Sharing the podium with each other in innumerable debates in countless states, they had a relatively civil relationship. Keeping their distance, they did not get into attack mode during the primaries until relatively late.
Some speculate, with good reason, that Cruz was biding his time, waiting for Trump to lay the rotten egg everyone assumed he would. But month after month, debate after debate, and primary contest after another, every rotten egg Trump laid, each more outrageous and loutish than the last, seemed to be warmly embraced by the demographic that, we now see, was at the heart of his winning strategy. The more perfidious his comments, the more free press coverage he got and the more popular he became with 40 percent of Republican primary voters.
I think it is fair to figure that Cruz assumed Trump would eventually peak and crash hard. This writer certainly did. Ignoring the wise words of P.T. Barnum, “Nobody ever lost a dollar underestimating the taste of the American people,” Cruz miscalculated. Hoping to collect the wreckage of the Trump campaign as his own, Cruz quickly found the hope of a first ballot win slipping away.
They each descended into a school-yard name calling and shoving match, culminating with Cruz snubbing Trump before the Republican delegates and about 27 million Americans by ungentlemanly refusing to endorse his primary foe.
Kasich entered the campaign late, with little money and no organization. As Jeb Bush was underwhelming debate audiences, primary voters and the donor class, eyes turned among the Republican establishment for a viable, credible alternative. They even laughably tried to draft Mitt Romney, who wisely refused and would only lead the non-candidate opposition to Trump.
The rescue finally fell, late and disorganized, to Kasich to lead the effort to dump Trump and save the Republican Party. Kasich was, not so arguably, the best candidate of them all. Had he entered earlier and carved out enough funding from his Ohio base, may well have had much more of an impact.
A life-long record of public service at a national level starting in 1983, Kasich has a history of actually working with Congress to craft legislation, back when Republicans did such things. He was instrumental in passing the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. He won his second term as Ohio Governor with a 30-point margin.
It was too little, too late. Kasich withdrew, winning only the Ohio primary. On the sidelines, he watched his Republican Party descent into brutish, mob-led madness. Kasich detests Donald Trump and made no effort to hide his disdain during the primary season, only to watch him win or take second in primary after primary.
Kasich never for a moment considered making peace with Trump. In what may be the biggest snub in political history, he refused to even enter the doors of the convention hall, in his own state’s largest city, at the lead of his own delegation or in any other capacity. This snub has real consequences, too. A Republican cannot win the presidency without carrying Ohio and Kasich will have none of it. One of Ohio’s most popular governors in decades will lift not a finger to carry his state for Trump. Indeed, there seems to be no evidence he will even moderate his disgust for Trump.
Kasich and Cruz. What are the political consequences for each?
Immediately following Cruz’s nation-wide speech, after being booed off the stage and he and his wife having to be securely escorted from the hall, they were refused entry to a reception thrown by one of the largest GOP donors in history, Sheldon Adelson. The next morning, he met a very cool, if not hostile, Texas delegation. His political future hangs by a thread.
Cruz is probably the most hated man in Congress – possibly in history. There will be no rescue for him. His Senate colleagues will happily trade him for another Texas Republican, should the opportunity arise. His credibility as a national figure, supported by his colleagues, is impossible to rebuild. Yes, he can lead an Evangelical mob in a future campaign, but almost a third of them are reporting feeling betrayed by him at this point.
In such a campaign, there will be few elected officials, if any, lending support. Winning elections matters. It matters even if the candidate is flawed. To throw a presidential election for your party is unforgivable. Ask Ralph Nader.
Kasich, on the other hand, sparkles. He still has friends. He is respected, even honored, by the electorate of Ohio, his fellow Republican governors (except Chris Christie and Scott Walker), his former colleagues in the Congress and the national press corps, with whom he has a jocular, friendly relationship. He comes across as seasoned, experienced, principled, dignified and statesmanlike. Of the 16 class members of 2016, he is probably the most likely to succeed in 2020.
Relationships matter in politics. Promises made in private are a bond, even across party lines. Trust in negotiation is vital for obtaining even partial success. Compromise is part of the game - - and it is a game. The people doing the negotiating will never have to live with the consequences of their failure. They are all set for life.
Betrayals and broken promises, failure to exhibit the qualities above; all are the traits of failure. No one wants to be the neighbor, much less friend, of failure. Cruz has the smell. Kasich is above it.
Peter Lewis of Madison, Wis. is a life-long Democrat and has worked on numerous campaigns and has run for the Wisconsin Assembly. In 1980, he served as an Alternate Delegate for Ted Kennedy at the Democratic National Convention in New York City. He studied Agricultural Journalism and Agricultural Economics at UW-Madison. He is a Registered Professional Land Surveyor. He has 2 children.
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James Rowen's Bio
James Rowen, a writer and consultant, has worked for newspapers, and as the senior Mayoral staffer, in Madison and Milwaukee, WI. This blog began on 2/2/ 2007. Posts run also at various news sites, including The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's "Purple Wisconsin."