Manchin or Kasich in 2020?

Democrat Party leaders have a problem leading up to the 2020 presidential election. They’ve been so busy following their hearts — toward socialism, that is — that they aren’t using their heads.

Running someone like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump — or, even worse, a more moderate Republican — is a recipe for disaster. Many voters rejected Hillary Clinton because they feared she was too left-wing for America. And remember, Hillary always could point to husband Bill, he of the “triangulation” presidency, to claim she wasn’t as liberal as opponents claimed.

But someone the likes of Warren, Sanders, Cory Booker or anyone else jostling for a spot in the Democrat stable would be viewed as a leftist too dangerous for most voters to risk. Some might well justify going Republican by noting that, hey, the nation endured nearly four years of Trump and nothing really bad happened. Better to stick with the devil you know, some might decide.

There’s a solution to the Democrats’ problem, however. Actually, there are two of them. One is in West Virginia, the other in Ohio.

Democrats need someone viewed as a moderate, but with reasonably progressive views. If Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., ever orders new business cards, he may want to have that inscribed on them.

Want proof of his qualifications? Look at the Nov. 6 election. Manchin won re-election, beating Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey by more than 3 percentage points.

Manchin accomplished that in the most pro-Trump state in the union, against an opponent who has impeccable GOP credentials. Morrisey also scored points as a defender of the coal industry.

How did Manchin win? First, remember there still are more Democrats than Republicans in West Virginia. He got many of those votes.

But second, Manchin managed to appeal to the pragmatists. Sometimes he votes against Trump, but sometimes he votes with him, even when party leaders say no.

Liberals like Manchin because he portrayed himself as a defender of the Medicaid program. GOP policies threaten it and could leave hundreds of thousands of Mountain State residents without health insurance, the senator insisted.

So Manchin is a West Virginia Democrat — one who, like so many of his party on the national stage, recognizes that there’s a time to be a conservative and a time to be a liberal.

Just what the Democrats need in 2020.

There’s another possibility, just across the Ohio River: Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Yes, Kasich is a Republican. And yes, he never stopped running for president, even after becoming one of Trump’s many victims in the 2016 primaries.

But what if someone convinced the governor that running as a Republican against Trump in 2020 would merely reprise the 2016 contest? What if being “the adult in the room” doesn’t work now, either?

What if Kasich became a Democrat and ran for president under that party’s banner?

Democrats would never buy a candidate not of their party’s establishment, you say? Just like Republicans wouldn’t support a maverick like Trump?

Trump capitalized on conservative voters’ annoyance with “the swamp.” Why couldn’t Kasich gain some votes from Democrats unhappy with their party’s slide to the left?

He, too, is a moderate. On some issues, he’s a rock-solid conservative. His anti-abortion stance is one — and lots of Democrats agree.

But Kasich is a compassionate conservative (where have we heard that before?). He pushed through expansion of the state’s Medicaid program, against heavy Republican opposition.

So there you have it. Democrat leaders have a choice: They can either nominate someone they really, really like — and lose — or they can go for a moderate and possibly win.

Manchin or, if he’d switch, Kasich, would be excellent choices.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net.

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