Kasich or Rubio?

I'm torn between my preferred candidate and an acceptable candidate who's more likely to win.


Virginia allows early voting but I haven’t cast my ballot yet. I’ve yet to decide whether to vote for John Kasich, the candidate in the race I’d most like to see as president, or cast a strategic vote for Marco Rubio, a guy I could live with and would likely prefer to Clinton.

Kasich isn’t a great campaigner and his path to the nomination is hard to see. He did well in New Hampshire and seems to be pinning his hopes on doing extremely well in his native Midwest. Still, he’s got the smarts, seasoning, and temperament to be an outstanding president. Having governed a major swing state, he understands the need for compromise and has demonstrated an ability to work across the aisles.

I’m not a huge Rubio fan. He’s got a lot of experience for a man so young, having risen to Speaker of the House in Florida before moving on to the Senate, but he’s never run anything and still comes across as a neophyte. He’s immature but seemingly improving as a campaigner. And his path to the nomination, while still a long shot compared to frontrunner Donald Trump, is more plausible.

Decisions, decisions.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    I wish you luck in your decision-making.

    Kasich was incredibly comfortable in New Hampshire, it was fascinating to see him in person, he just seemed to be having so much fun connecting with voters. It’s an aspect of campaigning that I feel is unfortunate that others in the country don’t get to witness. I think it’s depressing as hell that someone as seasoned and natural as Kasich isn’t doing much better. In a perfect world, November’s choice would be between Kasich and Clinton.

    From a practical perspective, Rubio’s stated position on the topic of abortion is enough to alienate him from a fairly wide swath of the electorate. While Gov. Kasich’s recent defunding of Ohio’s Planned Parenthood won’t endear him to pro-choice advocates, I have a suspicion that he’s more along the Lindsey Graham lines of the Republican party, taking a pragmatic view.

  2. Andre Kenji says:

    Rubio manages to make Hillary looks like a dove. And that says a lot.

    I´m glad that I don´t vote in the United States. Kasich is the perfect GOP candidate in theory, in practice he is a machine of spewing platitudes.

  3. Andre Kenji says:

    Rubio manages to make Hillary looks like a dove. And that says a lot.

    I´m glad that I don´t vote in the United States. Kasich is the perfect GOP candidate in theory, in practice he is a machine of spewing platitudes.

  4. Kasich has the resume of what you’d think would be the ideal Republican nominee for President. Nearly 20 years in Congress, the final eight years of which included time as Chairman of the House Budget Committee after the 1994 Election. A generally successful time as Governor of the epitome of swing states, including having been re-elected with more than 70% of the vote. The fact that he’s struggled to even get where he is in the field says a lot about the GOP, none of it good.

    Personally, I’ve liked Kasich for a long time and was probably one of the few people glad to see him run for President back in 2000.

    My complaints about Rubio are much the same a yours. He needs more experience, though. We’ve had our fill of first term Senators for the time being.

  5. ElizaJane says:

    Rubio is “seemingly improving as a campaigner?” It’s an improvement to claim your opponent wet his pants when you attacked him during a debate, and to make fun of his stage makeup? I know it’s what Trump’s been doing all along, but honestly, I don’t think it’s “improving” to be able to sink to his level.

    If there is something less than an empty suit, Rubio is it. He has also changed positions on pretty much every issue on the books (besides abortion) as he follows the lead of potential patrons and donors. He de facto quit his Senate job (while still taking a salary) when it became boring to him. Kasich, on the other hand, is an actual leader with actual experience. I cannot see why any thinking human being would prefer Rubio to him.

  6. I think that the thing is this in the GOP primary: one is not choosing between candidates X and Y, one is choosing between a vote that helps Trump get nominated or not. All other factors are secondary.

    Kasich will not be the nominee; Rubio might.

    (An alternative view: strategic considerations are not important and one should just vote pure preference).

  7. stonetools says:

    Kasich is sort of a smart conservatives’s view of what a conservative should be.. That of course disqualifies him from running in the present day GOP, which is mainly about xenophobia, racism, and rejection of 21st century reality, rather than whatever “true conservatism” is.
    Even so, Kasich has positions on labor, abortion and reproductive rights that no liberal could accept. He also seems to accept conservatism’s voodoo economics view of income producing tax cuts. But in any case, he has no realistic path to winning. He’s running for Veep at most.
    Rubio? A lightweight, pure and simple. A telegenic robot programmed to spew conservative talking points. Recently, he received a software update directing him to attack Trump, which he is doing without much apparent success. Despite the dreams of establishment conservatives, he is not much more likely than Kasich to stop Trump. Heck, he’ll have a hell of time winning his home state ( Kasich certainly will not win his).
    Wouldn’t be at all surprised if Kasich drops out after March 15. Rubio and Cruz will hang around until the end, I guess. But after Tuesday, it will be clear that the choice in November will be Trump vs Clinton, for good or ill. I can live with Clinton. The question for James or Doug is whether they can live with Trump.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: You’ve successfully articulated my quandary! Rubio makes more sense strategically but I’m not sure strategic voting is the right thing to do.

    @stonetools: If the alternative were John Kerry, Martin O’Malley, or Joe Biden, I’d happily vote for any of them over Trump. Possibly even over Rubio. They’re smart, competent, seasoned, reasonable men. Alas, the alternative is Hillary Clinton, who I think both highly qualified for the job and yet viscerally dislike and distrust. I’m pretty sure I’d vote Rubio over her. Pretty sure I’d vote her over Cruz, who I see as potentially dangerous. I’m leaning Clinton over Trump, too, but it’s a harder sell. I suppose it’s possible Trump could persuade me during the months after he’s secured the nomination that he’s someone to whom I could trust the keys. But right now I think he’s a gasbag and a clown.

  9. elizajane says:

    @James Joyner: I don’t mean to keep picking on you here, but it does shock me that a serious, politically knowledgeable, educated person would consider, even briefly, voting for Trump over Clinton. There’s “I don’t like or trust this person.” And then there’s “I have no idea what this person would do with my country, what he would do to our position in the world, what damage he would do to the body politic, and what the chances are that given the keys, he’d just burn the house down.” Clinton might do some real good and would probably do very little active harm. Trump is nowhere near those standards.

  10. Ratufa says:

    @James Joyner:

    With regards to “Rubio vs Clinton”: As much as you may have qualms about voting for Hillary (and I do as well), at some point in the next President’s term, it is very likely that they will be dealing with a Republican-controlled House and Senate. Given how dysfunctional the current Republican party is, there’s good reason to want somebody in the White House who can stand up to Congress when they go off the rails. I don’t see Rubio as that person — he’s too inexperienced, and I see no evidence that he holds up well under pressure. Even a more experienced Republican will have problems in those situations, given the nature of the GOP base.

    From that perspective, Clinton seems like a better, albeit not very satisfying, choice.

  11. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: what on earth could Trump do to make you think he’s someone you could trust with the keys?

    Pull off the mask, reveal that he is actually one of the lizard people, and that he actually cannot distinguish mammals by skin tone and that the crazy race-baiting has been performance art, but now that he has the nomination secure, he can reveal his true lizard-people objectives: a simplified tax system with lower rates on the middle class, and a robust but seldom used military held in reserve when diplomacy and compromise fail?

    I’m pretty sure that’s not the plan of the lizard people. Also, no one who hatched from an egg is a natural born citizen.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    A Rubio-Kasich ticket could happen.
    I could also see a Trump-Kasich ticket.

    However, I cannot see the GOP establishment brokering the convention to end up with Kasich at the top of the ticket.

  13. Jen says:

    @al-Ameda: The one redeeming quality I see in a Trump-Kasich ticket is that I can totally see Trump getting frustrated, annoyed, and deciding to quit the Presidency, leaving perhaps the better-suited-for-it-anyway Kasich in charge.

    I simply don’t think Trump has the patience necessary to govern. It is not like being the boss of a large company. Not at all.

  14. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner: why is Rubio better than Ted Cruz? Is it on policy (I can see no meaningful differences, but I am on the left and may be missing some nuance), or it is that Ted Cruz is simply hated by everyone who has ever interacted with him and all those people cannot be wrong?

    Any Republican President is going to have a Republican congress that is desperately trying to appeal to the Tea Party and the RedState.com crowd, passing truly scary legislation — Isn’t gridlock better? Or do you see a lot to like the the Paul Ryan budget? Is privatizing Medicare something you endorse? Cutting Social Security and raising the retirement age? More restrictions on abortion?

    And, if your big thing is the Supreme Court, there are other retirements (or deaths) expected soon. The far right Republican congress will be demanding Scalia, Ginsburg and anyone else who leaves the Supreme Court be replaced with Scalia clones. You don’t get to keep the mostly centrist wobbling to the right Supreme Court you know and love. It will probably move one seat to the left, or two to the right.

    I don’t see how anyone who claims to be moderately conservative, rather than far right, would find the expected results of a Republican administration over a gridlocked Democratic administration.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    But right now I think he’s a gasbag and a clown.

    I highly doubt that he will do anything to change your opinion…

  16. MBunge says:

    @elizajane: Trump is nowhere near those standards.

    I just read a piece over at Kevin Drum’s where he’s practically wetting himself with fear over Trump and I realized it’s because he’s thinking about Trump as though he sprang into existence one year ago, like from the forehead of s syphillitic Zeus.

    Trump has been a public figure for decades. He’s had business successes and failures, high profile feuds and divorces, relationships and interactions with cultural and economic elites and he’s reinvented himself several times, even forging an entirely new career as a reality TV star at an age when most celebrities are just trying to hang onto the limelight.

    There is literally NOTHING in his past to suggest any of the hysterical panic over Trump is valid. Oh, he might very well be a truly horrible and destructive President but the paranoia that he’s going to be a Mussolini or an Idi Amin doesn’t jibe with the facts of his life.


  17. Andre Kenji says:


    Oh, he might very well be a truly horrible and destructive President but the paranoia that he’s going to be a Mussolini or an Idi Amin doesn’t jibe with the facts of his life.

    Donald Trump REALLY reminds me of the caudillo/coronel of Latin American politics. That´s not good. But at least most caudillos/coroneis don´t have dealings with the Mafia or drug dealers.

  18. Grewgills says:

    @MBunge: @Andre Kenji:
    He’s a less classy, more xenophobic Berlusconi with worse hair. That’s hard to pull off, but… Murica!

  19. MBunge says:


    I could see Trump in the Berlusconi model and that would be pretty bad, but worse than Cruz and Rubio essentially promising more of everything the GOP has done for the last 16 years?


  20. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @MBunge: Yeah! Good question!