The New York Times – Editorial.
The battle to be the Republican choice for president has been nasty, brutish and anything but short. The hope among some Republicans is that the Iowa caucuses on Monday and the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 9 will promote a candidate who can appeal to the half of their electorate that doesn’t support the two current front-runners.
Those two, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, are equally objectionable for different reasons. Mr. Trump has neither experience in nor interest in learning about national security, defense or global trade. Even unemployment figures, which he’s pegged at 23 or 42 percent (the correct number is 5 percent) don’t merit his attention.
From deporting Mexican immigrants and barring Muslims to slapping a 45 percent tariff on Chinese imports, Mr. Trump invents his positions as he goes along. His supporters say they don’t care. What they may not know is how deliberately he is currying their favor. At a meeting with The Times’s editorial writers, Mr. Trump talked about the art of applause lines. “You know,” he said of his events, “if it gets a little boring, if I see people starting to sort of, maybe thinking about leaving, I can sort of tell the audience, I just say, ‘We will build the wall!’ and they go nuts.”
Ted Cruz’s campaign isn’t about constitutional principles; it’s about ambition. In his three years in the Senate, he has helped to engineer a shutdown of the government and has alienated virtually the entire chamber, both of which he bills as accomplishments since he lacks real ones. Now, whether he’s threatening to “carpet bomb” Syrian villages or pitching a phony “flat tax” that would batter middle-class consumers, Mr. Cruz will say anything to win. The greater worry is that he’d follow words with action.
More than a half-dozen other candidates are battling for survival. Jeb Bush has failed to ignite much support, but at least he has criticized the bigotry of Mr. Trump and the warmongering of Mr. Cruz. Senator Marco Rubio, currently embracing the alarmist views of the front-runners, seems to have forgotten his more positive “New American Century” campaign, based on helping the middle-class. The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino exposed Ben Carson’s inability to grasp the world. Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has said he would shoot down Russian planes, engage with the dead king of Jordan and bar refugees, including orphaned Syrian toddlers.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, though a distinct underdog, is the only plausible choice for Republicans tired of the extremism and inexperience on display in this race. And Mr. Kasich is no moderate. As governor, he’s gone after public-sector unions, fought to limit abortion rights and opposed same-sex marriage.
Still, as a veteran of partisan fights and bipartisan deals during nearly two decades in the House, he has been capable of compromise and believes in the ability of government to improve lives. He favors a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and he speaks of government’s duty to protect the poor, the mentally ill and others “in the shadows.” While Republicans in Congress tried more than 60 times to kill Obamacare, Mr. Kasich did an end-run around Ohio’s Republican Legislature to secure a $13 billion Medicaid expansion to cover more people in his state.
“I am so tired of my colleagues out here on the stage spending all their time talking about Barack Obama,” he told a town hall crowd in New Hampshire. “His term is over.” Mr. Kasich said recently that he had “raised the bar in this election. I’ve talked about hope and the future and positive things.” In this race, how rare that is.