Fmr. Republican governor, presidential contender backs Biden as convention kicks off

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) said his conscience is leading him to back presumptive 2020 Democratic Nominee Joe Biden
Fmr. Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) and a 2016 GOP presidential candidate said he never expected to support a Democrat's presidential run.
Published: Aug. 17, 2020 at 9:33 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The Democratic National Convention kicks off with a Republican taking center stage. Former Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) was the last candidate to drop out of his party’s 2016 presidential race. Now, he’s backing the other party’s guy.

In recent history, there’s generally at least a couple of prominent partisans who get behind the other party’s nominee during the convention. This year is no different.

But, it’s virtually unheard of for a defector to arrive following a strong presidential primary run under his own party banner during the previous cycle, as is the case with Kasich.

“It’s the right thing to do, and I would encourage other Republicans to… take off a partisan hat and vote on the basis of what your conscience tells you,” Kasich told CNN in an interview last week.

He said the choice between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden comes down to character. “I’m going to disagree with Joe on things,” he said, “[but] I think he can restore civility, and I don’t think he’ll go hard left.”

This year, the Democrats are pushing harder to sell disaffected Republicans to switch sides. Spokespeople for the DNC said gripes from across the aisle aren’t just limited to character, and include concerns ranging from policy to managing the pandemic.

“The fact that Donald Trump has failed so badly, on so many issues, is the reason a lot of Republicans just can’t vote for him,” said Director of Battleground State Communications David Bergstein.

But Greg Hartmann, a former Kasich delegate to the Republican National Convention for Kasich in 2016, said policy will earn Trump his vote despite concerns with the president’s style.

“A lot of the policies he’s pushed, cutting regulation and taxes, and focusing on the economy, I do support,” he said in a recent interview before re-iterating tha the, “probably [doesn’t] support the way he’s done it.”

Back in 2016, Hartmann called Trump, ‘the most offensive public figure’ he ever saw and accused him of alienating every minority group.

But, by 2018, Trump was reportedly ready to tap Hartmann as Cincinnati’s U.S. Attorney.

“We had that conflict, and then we made up,” he explained, “I’m a party guy, a team-player, and I believe we have to support our candidate.”

While Hartmann said he’s disappointed by Kasich’s decision to back Biden he was not harshly critical of the former Governor’s break with his own party. Alex Triantafilou, the Hamilton County Republican party chairman and a Kasich delegate in 2016 offered a more pointed assessment, calling it, “disgusting.”

Many election forecasters wrote off Ohio as un-winnable for Democrats this year. But as polls trend toward a toss-up in the Buckeye State, voices like Kasich’s may help his usual political competition beat the odds.

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