John Kasich, the governor of Ohio and a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has unexpectedly risen in the South Carolina primary polls just as he receives more press attention than usual due to his strong call for unity at the CBS News debate on Saturday night. Kasich’s comments at the debate took place less than 24 hours after the death of legendary Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. In a new survey by American Research Group that was released just prior to the debate, John Kasich polls second with 15 percent, behind Donald Trump’s strong lead at 35 percent.
John Kasich responded with concern to some powerful arguing between former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Donald Trump at Saturday night’s debate, as well as a massive, loud outburst from Trump wherein he turned very red in the face and shouted over the debate moderators and over Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). Trump called Cruz a liar and brought up Bush’s mother’s presence on the campaign trail in a negative light. John Kasich jumped in and tried to smooth things over, insisting that the Republicans were making the race easier for their Democratic opponents because of all the public bickering.
John Kasich polls a distant sixth in the latest national polls from Real Clear Politics, but it should be noted that these were last averaged on February 4. The American Research Group survey was conducted February 12 and 13, and it’s worth pointing out that the Republican survey (as well as the Democratic survey that was conducted simultaneously) only involved a sample size of 400 expected Republican primary voters.
John Kasich definitely won some crowd favor in-studio by urging calm during the most contentious Republican debate thus far this season. He then made a comment that was perhaps too far in the direction of compromise for the Republican base to tolerate when he suggested that President Barack Obama nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia who would receive approval from both sides of the political spectrum.
“I really wish the president would think about not nominating somebody. If you were to nominate somebody, let’s have him pick somebody that’s going to have unanimous approval, and such widespread approval across the country that this could happen without a lot of recrimination.”
John Kasich may have hedged the comment, but after the backlash from conservative media and conservative social media users, he obviously felt that he hadn’t hedged it enough, because he walked it back on the Sunday morning talk shows. On Meet the Press, Kasich told Chuck Todd, “I just think at a time when the country is so divided, it would just be great if the president didn’t send somebody forward and we had an election.” This suggestion from John Kasich and other Republicans is rather stunning, as it is the president’s constitutional obligation to appoint a successor when a Supreme Court justice dies, and it is mere chance that it has so rarely happened in an election year.
John Kasich may be jumping on the bandwagon when it comes to the insistence that President Obama should not do what he was elected to do and appoint a successor simply because he’s a “lame duck” (though a president is usually not considered such until there is a President Elect) — and this insistence does come with the ominous promise from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) that the Senate will refuse to confirm anyone that President Obama nominates. However, Kasich has held on to his reputation as the reasonable GOP candidate according to much of the mainstream media, and he can probably credit this trend for his recent triumphs in the polls, as well as his second place finish in the New Hampshire primary on February 9.
The South Carolina Republican primary will be held on February 20.
[Image courtesy of Spencer Platt/Getty Images]