Sorry Gov. Kasich, ‘Electability’ Is Bunk
John Kasich’s numbers are terrific.
No, not the number of primaries he’s won, or the number of votes he’s gotten, or the number of delegates he has. I mean the poll numbers that show the Ohio governor is well ahead of Hillary Clinton in a November matchup, while she beats mogul Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz. There’s even one that shows him dead even with Clinton in the deep, deep-blue state of New Jersey. Isn’t that exactly the kind of candidate delegates would and should turn to if they become unbound after the first ballot? Well, that’s his argument anyway.
Sorry, Gov. Kasich, but history says you’re wrong. And there may be good reasons why the “I’m electable” argument is less potent than it might appear.
For party delegates deciding how much “electability” matters, it’s important to remember that such springtime numbers have a fragile half-life. As Trump’s supporters keep reminding us, Ronald Reagan was running anywhere from 18 to 23 points behind President Jimmy Carter in the spring of 1980. One reason ex-President Gerald Ford flirted with entering the race—apart from a grudge from 1976—was that, as Time magazine noted at the time, “Ford shares the fears of many Republicans that Reagan cannot win if the Democrats re-nominate Jimmy Carter.”
Then in 1992, even as Bill Clinton was firming his grip on the nomination, the polls told a dismal story about his prospective election. In June, he was running third behind President George H.W. Bush and—in first place—Texas businessman Ross Perot. (Note: Springtime polls often elevate independent candidates—in 1980, John Anderson was running as high as 24 per cent against Carter and Reagan.) So there’s reason for Republicans looking at Kasich to beskeptical about these numbers.
Even if the numbers are sound, there’s a reason that they might spell out the wrong strategy for the campaign: "Electability" isn't the message that galvanizes a party base, and for good reason. ...