Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican
Ohio Gov. John Kasich at a news conference in Washington,
June 27, 2017 | Getty
John Kasich and John Hickenlooper have mused the moment might be right for an independent ticket for president and vice president. Of course, they offer the usual denials that they are not serious, but they do have several things working for them. Both parties delivered their nominations to very unattractive candidates leaving huge swaths of voters making their least unfavorable choice. Donald Trump’s insurgent takeover of the Republican Party and Bernie Sanders nearly capturing the Democratic nomination shows how vulnerable the parties are to movements and ideas outside their respective establishments and orthodoxies.
Considering 2020, the Republican Party remains fractured by Trump’s self-regard and character flaws as much as any policy differences. But the Democrats continue to appear befuddled locating an attractive governing philosophy beyond opposing Trump, a strategy that did serve them sufficiently in 2016.
But as weak as the parties have become, the opening for a bipartisan team of two moderate governors to run as independents is still very narrow.
Power of Partisanship
America’s two-party system still represents at least 60 percent of the electorate and voters tend to remain loyal. Trump would have a 25 percent approval rating from his core supporters if regular Republicans weren’t still on board. And, although he eked out his thin victory with the white working class in several states, in fact, he carried upwards of 90 percent of rank and file Republicans.
But beyond voter loyalty to overcome, the parties have embedded themselves in state statutes, making ballot access and conducting third-party campaigns very onerous.
Massive amounts of money will be needed to get on the ballot in most states and to run a campaign. Neither Kasich nor Hickenlooper are rich or such high-profile celebrities to get around the $1 billion minimum that appears to be required to both promote a candidacy and to defend against the inevitable attacks.
Hickenlooper, in particular, will be considered by Democrats as a spoiler. The Party is convinced Trump is likely a one-termer and will not want a moderate independent/Democrat in the field that could siphon Democratic votes from the ticket.
This appears to be a moment the public is interested in politicians who lower the drama and extreme partisanship to get things done. But, the centrist approach that often wins for state executives may not motivate the wider reaches of national party voters or even independents.
The good news for the two of them is that the moment appears right to offer some can-do bipartisanship. All the legacy media is ready for a contrast to Trump, the Freedom Caucus, Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders. At a minimum, Kasich and Hickenlooper should have fun ride on the talk shows.
Interview with Erica Meltzer for the Denverite
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Longtime Colorado pollster Floyd Ciruli said this frustrating coyness is “a common Colorado trait of politicians who are nationally ambitious.”
“The history is that for a very long time, as soon as you talk about national ambitions, you get into local trouble,” he said. “They say, ‘you’re not paying attention to us,’ and everything gets judged by their national ambitions.”
So all those denials are really confirmations?
“He’s absolutely interested, but he’s realistic,” Ciruli said of Hickenlooper. “This would be the longest of long shots, but at the moment, this is a really interesting perspective in terms of partisanship and gridlock and moving past that.”
. . .
Ciruli said the fact that this ticket is being talked about at all reflects the political moment we’re in, one where both parties produced candidates that were broadly unpopular in the last general election and there is widespread disgust with gridlock in Congress and intense partisanship.
“It’s the best alternative theme out there,” he said.
. . .
Ciruli said the more likely third-party candidate would be someone very rich and capable of self-financing a national run — someone like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, whose recent tour of the country complete with many social media posts with “real Americans” raised speculation, or former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg — not “a couple of well-intentioned politicians.”
. . .
If nothing else, this speculation raises the profile of the governors’ brands.
“Good for them,” Ciruli said. “They’ll make a lot of talk shows.”