Not a chance. Improbable. Crazy. Won’t happen. These are just some of the descriptors used in response to the likelihood of Ohio Governor John Kasich and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper teaming up to form a presidential and vice presidential ticket. For the Ohio Republican and Colorado Democrat to work together on a bipartisan plan to reform healthcare is noteworthy and the thought of the political allies using that momentum to form an electoral team has intrigued many. In this scenario, Kasich would run as president with Hickenlooper as vice president.
That each of these politicians have aspirations for national office is no surprise. Kasich spent 9 terms and 18 years in Washington, D.C. as an Ohio congressman and ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000 and 2016. He remained resolute in his opposition to Trump through the 2016 election, instead lodging a protest vote in favor of Arizona Senator, John McCain. However, immediately after the election, he was quoted as saying protests against Trump’s election were “unfortunate.”
Hickenlooper has tipped his hand at his national aspirations more than once. In 2008 he pushed to be appointed by Governor Bill Ritter for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Ken Salazar who went to work for President Obama as Secretary of the Interior. That seat went to his former Denver mayor’s office Chief of Staff, Michael Bennet. He was also vetted as a potential Vice Presidential candidate by Hillary Clinton’s team in 2016. In January of this year, Colorado’s Governor traveled to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum and Business Insider named him as someone who might “invigorate” the Democrats in 2020. Just this month, Hickenlooper appeared on NPR’s Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me show, further evidence of his attempt to build a national profile. Even Hickenlooper’s Wikipedia page has already been updated to report that a unity ticket with Kasich was being considered.
Election timing for both governors fit quite well with the presidential race of 2020. Both were elected to their second terms in 2014, both are term limited and finish serving their states in January of 2019, with a little under two years to begin a national campaign for November 2020.
As expected, both potential candidates ruled out any chance of forming a partnership to run for president and vice president. Jacque Montgomery, a spokesperson for Hickenlooper’s Colorado governor’s office said, “He addressed this… saying there was no such ticket. She pointed to his personal Twitter account where Hickenlooper wrote, “Odd & funny that people expect a political marriage when 2 people from different parties work together… Kasich is dapper & worldly, but knows nada about brewing beer. Loving the attention on our bipartisan work… but no ulterior motive. Not a unity ticket, just working with a new friend on hard compromises.”
Chris Schrimps from Kasich’s political office said, “The only plans we currently have is for the Governor to speak out and lead on the important issues of the day, just as he has and is doing on health care. Nothing beyond that.”
Schrimps noted Kasich’s interview last weekend on Meet the Press where he was adamant that no bipartisan ticket with Hickenlooper was in the works. When asked if he would leave the Republican party to run with Democrat Hickenlooper, Kasich was quick to respond, “The answer is no… I’m a Republican because I’m a Conservative.” Kasich continued, “Kasich – Hickenlooper, you couldn’t pronounce it and secondly you can’t fit it on a bumper sticker.” Finally, Kasich finished with, “Because Hickenlooper and I work together, cynics out there say, ‘Well, they want something. Because we want to stabilize health care and make sure that poor people have something people assume there’s a motive. You know, sometimes people actually do things because they’re trying to help somebody. And when we do that everybody ought not to say, ‘Well, what’s in it for them?’ This growing cynicism eats at the fabric of the spirit of our country.”
Both politicians have tried to create a self-narrative touting a cooperative, bipartisan nature.
Hickenlooper quipped in his Business Insider interview from Davos, “Well, I may not have voted for the president, but I’m an American first. My entire administration is going to do everything we can to make him as successful as we can.”
What might appear as bipartisan cooperation to some, looks to others like a politician that has little conviction about his points of view. When Hickenlooper signed legislation to limit the number of rounds allowed in a magazine and strengthened background checks in 2013, he later backtracked in front of a statewide Sheriff’s group, “I think we screwed that up completely, and I think we did a disservice to you and a disservice to ourselves.” In the legislation, and then Hickenlooper’s backtrack, there was something for political actives on both sides of the aisle to dislike. Similar observations have been made with Hickenlooper’s refusal to neither commute the death sentence of convicted killer, Nathan Dunlap, nor proceed with execution.
In places where Hickenlooper has stood firm, as with his pro-fracking stance, members within his own party have bristled the most. Time will tell whether Hickenlooper’s attempt at middle ground can ever translate into a national leadership position.
Kasich gained national attention with his bipartisan narrative during the 2016 presidential campaign and has carried that momentum to sustain a national moderate image. He emphasized in a July New York Times Op-Ed, “The best next step is for members of both parties to ignore the fear of criticism that can come from reaching across the aisle and put pencil to pad on these and other ideas that repair health care in real, sustainable ways. America needs it…”
Reproductive rights organizations would never call Kasich a moderate. In Ohio, he signed legislation seen as anti-woman, essentially defunding Planned Parenthood in the state. Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards issued a statement after Kasich’s signing of the law, “This legislation will have devastating consequences for women across Ohio. Kasich is proudly eliminating care for expectant mothers and newborns; he is leaving thousands without vital STD and HIV testing, slashing a program to fight domestic violence, and cutting access to essential, basic health care.”
In addition, Kasich was in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage, is anti-prevailing wage, and made deep cuts to public schools, all issues which would have trouble attracting Democratic votes.
A notable response on the prospect of a Kasich-Hickenlooper came from Denverite C.L. Harmer on Facebook, “Finding common ground on a couple of issues is called bipartisanship. Shouldn’t be confused with a winnable ticket.”