This year’s Republican primary process has been a doozy, and there’s no indication that it’ll let up anytime soon. Next Tuesday, it’s Florida’s turn to go to the polls.
The race started with an unprecedented 17 candidates. Jeb Bush, the popular two-term governor of Florida and a member of a family that’s already fielded two presidents, didn’t even make it to Florida’s primary. As of today, just four candidates are still actively campaigning for the nomination: businessman and entertainer Donald Trump, Texas senator Ted Cruz, Florida senator Marco Rubio, and Ohio governor John Kasich.
Trump has dominated the race almost since the moment he entered it. Without a doubt, Trump appeals to a wide swath of Americans who are tired of establishment politics and eager to shake things up. Trump’s record in the business world aside, he has zero government experience, a fact which plays into his “outsider” narrative and is likely seen by supporters as a strength rather than a drawback.
But Trump’s bombastic and often provocative comments and rambling, stream-of-consciousness speeches are decidedly unpresidential. He’s so over-the-top that we’ve become desensitized to the things that come out of his mouth, things that would likely be roundly condemned if anyone else said them. In July of last year, Trump targeted Senator John McCain, a decorated veteran who spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. “He was a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said. “I like people who weren’t captured.” Over the course of this campaign, Trump has repeatedly mocked women, the disabled, and those of other races. It’s not hard to imagine a President Trump triggering an international incident by calling some head of state a “loser.”
It’s only next to Trump that Cruz looks like a sensible candidate. Cruz’s positions on many issues, from abortion to immigration to marriage equality, are far to the right of most Americans. Cruz’s regressive “flat tax” plan would increase the tax burden for the poorest Americans while giving a huge tax break for the uber-wealthy. Like Trump and Rubio, Cruz is light on experience; he’s worked as attorney for most of his career and has never served in any kind of executive capacity.
At first glance, Rubio looks like a solid candidate. His talk of a new American century is rousing. “When I am President of the United States, we will not just save the American Dream, we will expand it to reach more people than ever,” he said in a recent speech. But it’s hard to overlook the fact that Rubio has been a terrible senator. He’s missed more votes in the Senate than anyone other than Ted Cruz, and aside from a short stop to sign books in 2012, he hasn’t visited Pensacola since he was running for the Senate seat six years ago.
Kasich is the only candidate in the race with both legislative and executive experience. He’s served for the past six years as Ohio’s governor, in which time he’s balanced a state budget with a deep deficit and turned the state around economically. According to a Bloomberg index, Ohio has the 11th best economic performance of the 50 states since 2011. Before serving as governor, Kasich served in Congress for 18 years and was chairman of the House Budget Committee which helped balance the federal budget. While some of his cuts have been unpopular, there’s no disputing that the man walks the talk when it comes to fiscal conservatism. In debates, Kasich has been positive, personable, and statesmanlike, staying far above the mud-slinging in which his opponents have so often engaged.
Unfortunately, voters in this unusual cycle don’t seem to placing much weight on candidates’ records and temperaments. Kasich is polling in last place in Florida, and barring some unprecedented shift, he’s got no chance of winning the state. And because the Florida Republican primary is winner-take-all, the top vote-getter will take all of Florida’s 99 delegates, even if most Floridians didn’t vote for them.
Nonetheless, John Kasich is by far the most qualified, capable, and — frankly — presidential candidate in the Republican field. The Pulse endorses Kasich in Florida’s March 15 Republican primary.