Ohio Players

Are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both looking to the Buckeye State for their running mates?

Considering the importance of Ohio to both presidential aspirants, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Clinton choose Senator Sherrod Brown as her partner, while Trump selects faux-moderate Governor John Kasich. If picked, Brown and Kasich would play highly important roles for their respective campaigns.

Brown is Bernie without the bombast, a bold progressive voice who understands that the Democratic Party has always stood for the interests of the disenfranchised, disparaged and downtrodden; like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, he can articulate the woes and frustrations of the put-upon middle class, and coherently explain how progressive policies can redress those grievances. The selection of Brown could accomplish two mutually important goals for Clinton: he could appeal to the more rational members of Sanders’s fan club while also attracting support from working-class voters who might respond to populist appeals, but who haven’t swallowed the last drop of Donald Trump’s Kool-Aid.

Meanwhile, Kasich can do for Trump what George H. W. Bush did for Ronald Reagan in 1980 (and Dick Cheney did for George W. Bush in 2000): send a signal to Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who are still skittish about the presidential nominee’s fitness for the job that there will be a reliable, steady adult in the candidate’s inner circle, giving him the advice and counsel he needs to deliver decent decisions. With Kasich on board, Trump will be able to sell the idea that he will not be a loose-cannon President, and that he can be trusted by the same voters who trusted John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Both Brown and Kasich would be strong voices for their partners on the campaign trail. Brown is a passionate and powerful speaker, reminiscent of the late Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy at times; he can hit Trump and the radicalized right with knockout rhetorical force. Kasich is also a compelling speaker–even if what he says is often nonsense–and could be quite effective at spreading the (false) message that Trump is unlikely to govern as a wild-eyed wingnut.

Yes, the mainstream media will drool over the dynamic of both presidential nominees being New York residents and both vice-presidential nominees being Ohio natives, adding another element of circus to this contest. Will the mainstream media focus on the actual issues Brown and Kasich raise in the vice-presidential debate? (I’d certainly love to see the Fourth Estate confront Kasich on the issue of climate change, noting the incongruity of a man who has grudgingly acknowledged the climate crisis teaming up with a man who has dismissed the issue as a hoax invented by China.) Will reporters take a critical look at how right-wing voter-suppression efforts (some of which have been temporarily halted by the federal courts) could influence the final result in Ohio, as such efforts did in 2004? Or will they let triviality trump truth?

UPDATE: Yes, Kasich is still taking shots at Trump for now–but as MSNBC’s Chris Hayes notes, it wasn’t that long ago when Senator Marco Rubio was condemning Trump, too.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.