Editorial: We endorse Ohio Gov. John Kasich in GOP vote

The Detroit News

Michigan voters again have the opportunity to shape the outcome of the Republican presidential nominating contest when they cast their ballots Tuesday.

Four years ago, the state gave native son Mitt Romney a narrow but critical victory that sent him away with the momentum his campaign needed to defeat rival Rick Santorum.

This time, Michigan could be where a true alternative at last emerges to front-runner Donald Trump, who comes out of the Super Tuesday vote with a formidable lead in the delegate count.

That candidate should be John Kasich, the Ohio governor who offers a heaping measure of maturity, competence and experience to a GOP race that has taken on the air of a junior high class officer’s election. Kasich also possesses the temperament that can command respect both at home and abroad.

Those should be the minimum qualifications for a nominee. And yet, of the remaining candidates, only Kasich has demonstrated them consistently on the campaign trail. It doesn’t hurt that Kasich also has a record of success in Ohio and, before that, in Congress.

Under his leadership the past five years, state taxes have been slashed by nearly $5 billion. The budget, once facing an $8 billion shortfall, is now enjoying a surplus. The jobless rate has fallen to 5.2 percent, from above 9 percent when he took office. Ohio’s economy has grown at twice the Midwest average, as has household income. America could use those kind of numbers.

Kasich is continuing in Ohio what he began as a congressman. In 1997, he was a key player in the deal that led to a rare balanced federal budget, and was also a driver of sensible welfare reform. And 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee highlights his national security background. The congressional experience rounds out a resume that should give voters confidence that Kasich can handle challenges both domestically and overseas.

Beyond the record, Kasich stands out from this field for his absence of stridency. He is conservative, but not an ideologue. He is willing to break with Republican dogma when the situation demands pragmatism, as he did in joining Michigan’s Rick Snyder as one of the few Republican governors who agreed to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.

He is devoutly religious, without being intolerant, and understands that society and the government are obliged morally to help those who can’t help themselves. Kasich’s work on criminal justice reform in Ohio has turned around lives, while saving taxpayers money.

And then there’s this: Kasich does not covet the presidency so desperately that he’s willing to say or do anything to get elected. He has not changed his positions, nor surged to extremes to appeal to the party’s base. That distinguishes him from most others in this race, on both sides.

Of the other Republican candidates in the race, Marco Rubio comes the closest to making a case for the White House. The young Florida senator has considerable promise, and a compelling story. The son of Cuban immigrants, if nominated, he would be the first Hispanic major party presidential candidate. He has a sound plan for economic growth and is strong on national security.

Rubio offers the most depth in his proposals and is intensely focused on policy details. He certainly has what it takes to be president. Yet he has been too quick to bend in the quest for votes, as he did in backing off the Senate immigration compromise he helped forge as part of the Gang of Eight.

The rest of the GOP card ranges from disappointing to dangerous. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is a demagogue who has been an obstructionist in the Senate, believing that a minority has the right to impose its will on the majority. He is not the person to break the gridlock in Congress and get the country advancing again. He’s too preachy, and too convinced of his own righteousness.

Detroit native Dr. Ben Carson effectively ended his campaign Wednesday. He’s a nice man and gifted surgeon who should have left the race months ago.

As for Donald Trump, the bombastic real estate developer and reality TV king, it almost defies reality that he’s not only still around, but far out in front of this race. He offers no practical solutions to any challenge faced by the nation, and brings to the campaign little but bombast and bravado. We would dismiss him as a joke if not for the undeniable possibility that he could be the nominee. The damage a Trump nomination would do to the Republican Party is incalculable.

Republicans started this campaign with 17 candidates, several of whom had the character and experience to be effective presidents. As the race has winnowed to five, Ohio Gov. John Kasich stands as the best choice for Republicans who still care about winning the presidency in November and giving this country an effective leader.

Coming Friday

Our endorsement in the Democratic race