Kasich and Biden Yearn for 2020

Kasich and Biden Yearn for 2020
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They wear their hearts on their sleeves, and occasionally stick their feet in their mouths. They are men of deep faith who have shouldered painful loss that informs their public and private journeys. And as seasoned veterans they’re now stumbling around in a new political world, hoping their priorities and principles can still convince, seemingly haunted that the presidency may have passed them by.

It would be hard to miss that both Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Vice President Joe Biden are conspicuously stepping into the spotlight, as Kasich does book tour rounds and Biden -- who has a book contract and is supposed to be writing -- seems these days to prefer making public appearances rather than hunkering down at the computer.

Both men deny they’re running for the White House again, but not really. For now, they claim to want the same thing -- to be heard. As a Biden adviser told Politico: “He wants to have a voice. The more stuff he does like this, the more people hear his voice.” Kasich told Anderson Cooper at a CNN town hall last month: “My job is to be a voice that’s constructive.” And Kasich ally Matt Borges, whom Trump helped oust from his perch as Ohio GOP party chairman in January, said the governor “wants to continue to be a voice in the process.”

Much lies ahead on the road to the 2020 election in both parties. Republicans of all stripes wonder if Trump ran the first time as a PR stunt to boost business, will regret it and leave after one term. Some on both sides of the aisle wonder if the Russian mess will doom him. For Democrats hoping to challenge him, things look bleak. Stuck with Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren filling the void, the party is in desperate need of a next-generation leader who can win over the voters lost in 2016.

Odds aside, the two happy warriors with the heftiest resumes could easily big-foot the rest of their fields should they run in 2020. Any senator daring to challenge President Trump in less than four years (hello, Ted Cruz) will have a hard time challenging the readiness of a two-term governor from a critical swing state. Ditto for a Democratic senator (umm, that’s you, Cory Booker) or even a governor challenging Biden. They too may swipe at his age, though if the country is deeply anxious about Trump’s outsider-neophyte leadership come 2019, particularly in the area of foreign policy, they may yearn for someone with eight years as vice president under his belt.

On the Thursday after the election, Kasich had a speech planned at the American Enterprise Institute where he would step up and articulate the GOP’s road ahead, but he canceled it that Wednesday because Hillary Clinton lost. One can only imagine what was going through the mind, and likely the mouth, of the veep that week.

Biden didn’t wait until Election Day to concede he wished he had run in 2016 and believed he could have won. A Politico story said his advisers have begun an 18-month plan to position the 74-year-old for a potential campaign, just in case he embarks on what would be his sixth almost-or-actual presidential run. Reportedly he has told more than one person, “If I’m walking, I’m running.”

Kasich, who has established a political operation despite being term limited as governor ending January 2019, makes it clear he can’t say no by saying things like “you never know when duty calls” and “you don’t ever say no to anything in life.” He is positioning himself for the opening, should Trump not run, and his book tour has notably taken him to political hot spots like Saint Anselm’s College in New Hampshire. For now he’s content to be the anti-Trump, in a non-confrontational way. Kasich’s publisher, MacMillan, describes his book “Two Paths: America Divided or United” as “a clarion call to reason and purpose, humility and dignity, righteousness and calm.” Kasich told Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere: “I have every right to try to define Republicanism and conservatism as much as anybody else and, you know, there’s a little struggle right now and I think the party doesn’t quite know where it's going.”

Biden, perhaps his party’s only bridge to the voters who had supported President Obama but then chose Trump, wants the party to embrace its progressive ideals while fighting for the working class. His new twist on the core identity of the Democratic Party has an interesting sound to it, since any Democrat facing off against Trump in 2020 will accuse him of abusing his office for financial gain resulting from his myriad business and ethical conflicts: “Remember the core reason you’re a Democrat -- we abhor the abuse of power, whether its financial power, psychological power, physical power. Think about what made you a Democrat. It’s the abuse of power. We’ve got to remember who we are,” Biden said.

For both Kasich and Biden, even trying again to win the presidency is the longest of long shots. Perhaps if they want to prevail they should consider running together on a bipartisan ticket, exploiting the opening 2016 revealed: that both parties are suffering a likely fatal loss of power that can’t be recovered in a vastly splintered electorate. Kasich and Biden could choose to present themselves as pragmatic, governing candidates who reject our new polarization that leads primary elections to produce awful candidates. Or Biden and Kasich can just, each, have a voice.

A.B. Stoddard is associate editor of RealClearPolitics and a columnist.

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