Wright State University political scientist Lee Hannah said flirting with a primary or independent bid for president is the most sure-fire way for Kasich to maintain a national voice. “I personally think that he is trying to stay in the national spotlight so that he will have choices after his term ends,” Hannah said.
At this point, Trump would be difficult to beat in a primary since 80 percent of Republican voters support the incumbent president, Hannah noted. Even if Trump decided not to seek re-election, Vice President Mike Pence would be the heavy favorite.
Recent moves by Kasich have earned him criticism from within his own party.
He refuses to endorse President Trump, he fiercely defends the decision to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people, and he is calling for an overhaul of how Ohio draws its Congressional district maps — even though the GOP holds the upper hand with the current system. He told young immigrants brought illegally to America by their parents: come to Ohio.
The governor sidesteps questions about whether he’ll run as an independent for president in 2020. But Kasich said on CNN last month that he might not be able to support the Republican Party if it can’t be fixed.
Related: Kasich says he might not “be able to support” GOP
Kasich is so Republican that as a college student, he wrote Richard Nixon a fan letter.
Despite his willingness to criticize Trump and defend expanded Medicaid, Democrats in Ohio will quickly note that Kasich is still a true conservative.
The two-term governor has signed all but one abortion measure to come to his desk; he pushed for a bill that would gut collective bargaining rights for public employees; he supports the death penalty and gun rights.
While Kasich told CBS This Morning that he supports outlawing bump-stocks — devices used to modify semi-automatic weapons to fire rapidly — Kasich has signed into law bills that expand the right for permitholders to carry concealed weapons into bars, day cares and college campuses.