Kasich for president

Why should Maryland's GOP voters throw away a potential victory in November by supporting Trump or Cruz now?

Maryland Republicans well understand how to elect a leader who can attract support from independent and Democratic voters. They did it in 2014 when they picked Larry Hogan, and the governor's willingness to stick to a pro-business, fiscally conservative message — and to sidestep divisive issues and compromise at times — has made him broadly popular.

In a GOP presidential field whittled down to three, there is only one candidate who comes anywhere close to following this formula — Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The former House Budget Committee chairman has run on a platform that, while perhaps more conservative than Mr. Hogan's, has at least approached issues more rationally than his more flamboyant opponents Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. That Governor Kasich recognizes that climate change is real and a problem, for instance, has demonstrated that at least he is not science-averse.

Mr. Kasich sometimes gets wrongly labeled as a moderate, but his record is not quite that. Yes, as governor of a Rust Belt state with divided political sentiments, he has had to compromise to get things done. His willingness to accept the Medicaid expansion enabled by the Affordable Care Act may not have thrilled the tea party wing in Columbus, but it proved to be the absolutely right choice for improving and prolonging the lives of Ohio residents.

The 63-year-old Pennsylvania native hasn't exactly endeared himself to progressives either. His actions on abortion — denying funding to Planned Parenthood and requiring women seeking abortions to undergo ultrasounds are just two of 16 anti-abortion rights measure he has enacted in Ohio since 2011. His record on executive clemency is poor, and his desire to enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana in states that have legalized the drug is misguided, as are his attacks on collective bargaining, including a law restricting the rights of public employees such as teachers and police, a measure that was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in his state.

Yet compared to Mr. Trump and Senator Cruz, neither of whom has come close to demonstrating the skills or the temperament to serve as leader of the free world, Mr. Kasich has offered genuine statesmanship — if only by refusing to wallow in the trough of name-calling and extremism that has so captured his opponents. It should come as no surprise that polls have consistently shown that Mr. Kasich has a better chance of winning in November than the vulgarian New York developer with a frighteningly poor grasp of foreign policy or the Princeton debater and preposterous Ronald Reagan poseur with a demonstrated inability to work with others, Democratic or Republican, and who promises more of the same if elected.

Admittedly, Mr. Kasich has won too few delegates to claim his party's nomination outright no matter what happens in Maryland or elsewhere (ditto for Mr. Cruz), whereas Mr. Trump's lopsided victory in New York last Tuesday has raised the possibility that he may yet achieve that goal. Still, a brokered Republican National Convention remains a distinct possibility, and Mr. Kasich correctly argues that a victory this week in Northeast states including Maryland could give him the momentum he needs to ultimately win over potentially deadlocked delegates at the convention this July in Cleveland.

Maryland GOP voters who believe supporting Mr. Trump is a clear and loud refutation of the Republican establishment ought to think again. Suffering such a potential embarrassment of a national candidate at the top of the ticket could not only doom the party's Senate majority, it might even tip the balance in the House, not to mention hand the White House to Hillary Clinton, who has all but wrapped up the Democratic nomination. If conservatives think Congressional Republicans failed to block President Barack Obama, imagine what happens after the party so foolishly sacrifices most of its potential influence.

That Governor Hogan has stayed out of the presidential race since the departure of his friend and mentor, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, speaks volumes. He knows what it takes to cross party lines and that the top two vote-getters are fundamentally ill-equipped to get the job done. Mr. Kasich comes closest, and he gets our endorsement.

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