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Monday, April 25, 2016

Judd Gregg: The case for Kasich

By Judd Gregg - 04-25-16 06:00 AM EDT

After his second place in the New York Republican primary, it is time to consider whether there is a case for Ohio. Gov. John Kasich as the GOP nominee.

His Republican rivals Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz would rather not entertain this possibility. They both want Kasich to be shelved. But he has shown plenty of resilience already.

Trump in essence argues, "I have the most votes and I have the most delegates, thus I should be the nominee." There is also a rather loud behind-the-curtain murmur that, if he does not get the nomination, he will make sure whoever does so will not win in November.

Regarding his basic argument, if whoever got the most votes won a presidential election, then Al Gore would have been president. We elect presidents under a nominating system and electoral vote system, neither of which is necessarily determined by who gets the most votes. It is the person who gets the numerical majority of the delegates who becomes the nominee.

Cruz argues that since he has won the second-most delegates and the second-most number of states after Trump, he should be the alternative. Incongruously, given his anti-establishment image up until now, he is positioning himself as the establishment candidate of sorts - the savior of the party from The Donald. This is not much of a case.

Almost all of Cruz's colleagues - including those who have tried to govern in a conservative manner - genuinely dislike him.

Their lack of affection stems from his tendency to claim that he alone is pure, while they are illegitimate bearers of the conservative banner.

Since conventions are intended to bring the party together around a single candidate, it is difficult to discern how Cruz fits the bill.

Kasich, by contrast, has run a straightforward campaign. He has simply said what he stands for, and has pointed to his record to show that he has delivered. He has not tried to divide or denigrate those who do not support him.

His campaign has not been so high profile as the Trump or Cruz efforts mainly because he has not been so flamboyant - or, to use a more apt term, demagogic. But if the convention delegates are looking for someone who can pull the party together rather then tear it apart, he has that lane to himself.

Kasich's biggest differences from his rivals, however, are on policy and substance.

For some reason, the shouters seem to have concluded that the only way to govern is to elect a person who cannot govern.

Cruz has not accomplished one conservative goal in his brief time in Washington. The most conspicuous thing he has done is to significantly undermine the credibility of efforts to rein in the growth of government by his inane action of shutting the entire government down.

Trump has never had to govern at all. He has been successful in business and he is a force for promoting market economics, which is good.

But his stridency and his "my way or the highway" approach are difficult to square with the imperative to get something done in a constitutional democracy characterized by checks and balances.

Kasich, on the other hand, has actually accomplished things that have moved the conservative agenda forward.

He was the architect of the last balanced federal budget. He led his state out of fiscal chaos and economic malaise into a position of economic strength, via lower taxes and fewer regulations. He legitimized conservative governing, proving that it helps people lead better lives.

Furthermore, his policy proposals actually make sense, whether on controlling spending or on tax reform. This is a stark contrast to the erratic ideas put forth by both Cruz and The Donald.

Tax reform is a perfect example of this difference. It is the most important fiscal policy issue we have as conservatives.

Cruz has suggested we go down the road of Europe and add a value added tax. Nothing could be worse for conservatives.

Anyone who has followed the tax experience of the various states that have gone to a sales tax, which is what a value added tax is, knows what happens.

The tax is introduced with the claim that it will replace or reduce the state's income tax. Over time, just the opposite happens. Governments inevitably end up with two major taxes and government grows.

Trump has suggested a tax cut that would reduce revenues by an estimated $13 trillion over ten years. Even if you apply the most optimistic dynamic scoring to this proposal, it leads to a massive increase in the nation's deficits and debts.

We would all love such a tax cut but our children would not love the debt it would add, which they would have to pay. The ultimate outcome would be a steep decline in their standard of living.

Kasich, on the other hand, has suggested major tax reform along the lines of the Reagan-Rostenkowski plan of the late 1980s. This means reducing deductions and exemptions, and using the money that has thus been freed up to reduce rates.

This creates a tax system that incentivizes investment in productive activities that create jobs; by contrast, our present tax laws promote investments made for the purpose of avoiding tax.

It is a plan that we know will work, because it did under Reagan and his successors.

Republicans who want to move this country away from the left-wing utopian approach of President Obama and his acolytes need to take a hard and rational look at the GOP field.

They need to take a truly conservative approach. And they need to consider John Kasich.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee. 

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