Chicken? Game Theory? Whatever. Go Kasich.

Chicken? Game Theory? Whatever. Go Kasich.

Earlier this month, Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich signed a state bill designed to defund Planned Parenthood, a vital organization that provides a range of health care services to low-income women that would otherwise go without. Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards denounced the move as one with “devastating consequences for women across Ohio…John Kasich is proudly eliminating care for expectant mothers and newborns; he is leaving thousands without vital STD and HIV testing, slashing a program to fight domestic violence, and cutting access to essential, basic health care.”

As we know, Kasich is also attempting to position himself as the moderate adult in the room amongst a winnowing field of 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Notwithstanding the reality of his signature as a disastrous attack on women’s health, the Planned Parenthood pile-on remains good party politics. Mid-October 2015 data from Gallup shows a mere 35 percent conservative favorability rating for the non-profit organization. But as is the modern Republican way, the Governor is committed to disingenuous doubletalk. As CNN reports, “On the campaign trail Kasich frequently talks about the importance of funding for expecting mothers and newborn babies. A spokesman for Kasich’s gubernatorial office, Joe Andrews, said in a statement the new Ohio law is consistent with those views.”

As an engaged female voter who’s been witness to a long-running, frightening pattern of Republican aggression toward a woman’s personal liberty, it’s hard to view the Governor as a prudent White House choice. Acting against the interests of more than 50 percent of the electorate isn’t generally enticing, even if the relative comparison pool includes Ted Cruz and Donald Trump.

And yet….

2016 is a year marked by a rapid rise in personal cognitive dissonance. I don’t want President Kasich. Frankly speaking, a majority of the Republican Party has come to the same conclusion. The only demographic demonstrating an appetite for his candidacy are residents of his home state. Still I find it impossible not to enjoy the schadenfreude that is the Governor’s adamant refusal to quit the race. Kasich’s most high-profile campaign success is happening in real-time – acting as Chief-Thorn-in-Side to party leadership and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Earlier this week Kevin Quealy of The New York Times wrote a piece entitled, Lessons From Game Theory: What Keeps Kasich in the Race? In it, he observes:

“The Republican establishment has a problem. It is headed for a car crash…Although Mr. Rubio is the obvious establishment favorite, leading Mr. Kasich in national polls, prediction markets and delegate math, the two are splitting some votes. To have his best chance against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Mr. Rubio needs Mr. Kasich to drop out. The longer both candidates remain in the race, the worse it is for both of them. It’s safe to assume neither would like to see Mr. Trump get the nomination.”

With all due respect to Quealy, is it really safe to assume that? In televised debate after candidate forum, Kasich has rendered disgusted statements about the general direction of the GOP, and 2016 frontrunners specifically. Here’s a gem about Trump from last November:

“If people think that we are going to ship 11 million people who are law-abiding, who are in this country, and somehow pick them up at their house and ship them out of Mexico — to Mexico, think about the families. Think about the children.”

Meanwhile, I believe commentator Gail Collins speaks for many voters in observing, “My opinion of Rubio is so low that I’m not even sure he’d be an improvement [over Trump].” We can’t take much for granted when it comes to this crop of Republican candidates, but I think the Governor reads.

Kasich has been a political fixture for two decades, and Governor of Ohio for nearly six years. At a micro and macro level, his primary messaging has been fairly consistent: pick me or sayonara mainstream Party of Reagan. He may disagree with the general electorate on many issues but he appears mentally competent (not so fast Ben Carson), capable of discursive ad lib (bring Rubio his oil can) and in possession of basic human decency (unlike Cruz). What does he have to lose by hanging in there as long as possible? With a job to go return to should his standoff with Rubio prove unsuccessful, Kasich is finally making a difference in this campaign after months on the undercard.

Sometimes you have to completely destroy an organism so it can be rebuilt. Kasich is playing his part surprisingly well at this stage of the game. The Republican Party failed to learn anything from its own 2012 autopsy report. Perhaps his stubborn derailment of unpalatable Establishment It Boy Rubio, allowing Trump to complete the GOP humiliation cycle in November, is good for the country.

Becky Sarwate

Becky Sarwate

Becky is an award-winning journalist, Op-Ed columnist and blogger. On March 29, 2018 her first book, Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team, will be published by Eckhartz Press. She is a proud Chicago resident, where Becky lives with her husband Bob. Check out her collected work at, and follow her on Twitter @BeckySarwate.