Debating what is next for Ohio Gov. John Kasich now that he’s ended his bid for the Republican nomination is likely to be the political parlor game of late spring.
For possible answers, we asked two local political scientists: Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Cedarville University Center for Political Studies, and Paul Leonard, a former Ohio lieutenant governor and Dayton mayor who is now an adjunct professor of political science at Wright State University.
1. Run for vice president. Kasich has said he isn’t interested in being Trump’s running mate, and privately those close to Kasich say there is no chance it will happen. But being a heartbeat away from the most important job in the land is pretty enticing. Smith said Kasich wants to do more with his political career and running for vice president could help make that happen. Trump says he would consider Kasich.
2. Run for U.S. Senate. Both Smith and Leonard see this as one of the more likely prospects for a man who is highly ambitious and not one for playing second fiddle. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, is mentioned as a Democratic vice presidential possibility and would be up for re-election in 2018. If Brown left office early, Kasich would appoint his replacement. (And in theory could appoint himself, although that hasn’t worked out so well in other states). If Brown stays put, a Kasich-Brown contest in 2018 would draw national interest. Smith does not see Kasich as someone who would run for the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served 18 years. “I don’t see him going back to Congress and pulling a John Quincy Adams,” Smith said.
3. Run for president. At 63 Kasich is young enough to take another shot in 2020 or 2024 and by then the Republican Party electorate may have evolved again and a more moderate Republican could get the nomination. But it’s a long shot at best that he would attempt a third run for the presidency.
4. Finish out his term as governor. In the short term, that is the obvious choice for Kasich. Leonard said he has “expedited the lame-duck process” by running for president. If he finishes his term it could have an impact on GOP jockeying to replace him, as Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor will not have the advantage of being an incumbent in the 2018 election. Both Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted have expressed interest in the job.
5. Join private sector. Kasich may simply finish his term and go to the private sector, where he had success both as a political commentator on Fox and as a managing director at the now defunct Lehman Brothers investment banking division before it went bankrupt.
6. Take a cabinet position in a Trump Administration. If Trump wins, Kasich could be vetted for a cabinet post, but Leonard sees this as unlikely. Kasich “thinks of himself as an out-front leader,” Leonard said. Kasich also has been open in his criticism of Trump and so would have to come to grips with working for him.
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