While Republicans inside the Beltway continue to stumble and fumble their way to irrelevancy, Ohio Gov. John Kasich — and other conservative heartland governors — are quietly offering a blueprint for success: competence, consistency and actually creating jobs rather than just talking about it.
As Republicans look ahead to 2016, they worry most about the capacity of any party leader to navigate a base that is at odds with most Americans on gay rights, immigration and the broader demographic currents reshaping our politics.
There’s an emerging playbook for doing this, and it’s not based on a bunch of phony outreach or “caving” on the party’s principles. Kasich, who on Sunday is scheduled to sign a $2.7 billion tax cut, in addition to an earlier estate tax cut, is one of the chief architects and practitioners.
Kasich is replicating much of the approach that Mitch Daniels took as Indiana governor during two terms ending in January. It’s what Scott Walker forced on Wisconsin, and Mike Pence is now trying to do in the Hoosier State. The public backlash is intense initially, abates over time, and eventually gives way as job growth pushes other issues into the background, including the GOP’s dilemma with immigration and same-sex marriage.
This makes the governors of all three states essential to any conversation about the Republican ticket in 2016 — and any hope of a Republican revival before then. They don’t carry the baggage of Washington and its constant hot-headed fighting, and could plausibly swat away the most contentious issue by simply saying: “Look what I did in the state I ran."