Former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland admits he “wasn’t particularly excited” to hear the news about his once-rival being invited to speak at the Democratic National Convention.
Then again, Strickland considers himself to be a utilitarian. He also believes a second term for President Donald Trump would “change the country, maybe forever.”
“If this is what it takes to help (Joe) Biden, so be it,” Strickland told the Ohio Capital Journal. “I applaud John Kasich for trying to keep that from happening.”
The Associated Press reported on Monday that Kasich has been invited to speak next month at the presidential nominating convention for his opposing political party. It is unclear if Kasich will be expressly endorsing Biden; the AP reported this invitation is part of a strategy to broaden the Democratic nominee’s base to include disaffected Republicans seeking to get Trump out of office.
Kasich, who served two terms as Ohio governor, has remained one of the most high-profile Trump critics within the Republican Party. He campaigned against Trump for the Republican nomination for president, eventually finishing fourth in the delegate race. A top strategist for Kasich’s presidential campaign, John Weaver, is involved with Project Lincoln — a Republican-led political action committee working toward a Trump defeat this fall.
Ohio Democrats have had varied opinions this week about the possibility of Kasich speaking at the convention. Some believe this could tip Ohio’s 18 Electoral College votes to Biden, thus handing the former vice president a crucial state en route to the White House.
Others have questioned both the political strategy and the message behind allowing a longtime Democratic rival to have a speaking slot at the party’s convention. Speeches are typically given by Democratic leaders, up-and-coming politicians and well-known former officials.
“Entanglement,” House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes tweeted upon hearing the news.
For Strickland, whose reelection effort in 2010 fell at hands of the Republican challenger Kasich, a wary embrace of his one-time political enemy is solely a reflection of the president.
“Donald Trump is so bad that I think it’s the patriotic duty for every Republican in the House and Senate to put country above party,” Strickland said. “If John Kasich is willing to speak up and lend his voice, then that’s good.”
Other reactions have been mixed. Janet Garrett, a three-time Democratic congressional candidate against U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, described some Democrats as being “pissed off” at the news. “We’ll take the endorsement,” she wrote on Twitter, “But it doesn’t erase the pain he caused.”
Outside of Ohio, the national Democratic Party frequently targeted Kasich while he campaigned for president:
With the 2020 election on the line, however, some would rather look ahead than focus on past battles.
“I think we have to have a spirit of forgiveness,” said a Democratic consultant who was affiliated with Strickland’s gubernatorial administration. “If (Kasich’s) come around, let’s accept at face value.”
“I welcome this,” the consultant added of the invite, noting America needs “rational people in the center” to help get the country back on track.
Strickland described Ohio as being “an absolute toss-up,” but still a “winnable” race for Biden this fall.
In the interview, Strickland also offered praise of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic.
“I like DeWine,” Strickland said. “I think he’s doing a good job.”
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism. Read more Ohio Capital Journal stories here.