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Government & Politics

Steve LaTourette says he Understands the Attraction of Trump, but 'He Wouldn't be King'

Steve LaTourette

John Kasich is racing through Ohio, with nearly a dozen campaign stops scheduled through Monday. And where he cannot be, his advocates are. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with one of them, former Northeast Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette – who lobbies nationally, now, for what he sees as the moderate voice of the GOP.

Polls show John Kasich’s strength as a potential GOP presidential nominee is with Republicans who identify themselves as moderate-to-liberal. The kinds of voters who put and kept Steve LaTourette in Congress for nearly 20 years until he retired in 2013.

"(Trump's) mouth is writing checks that his actions will never be able to cash."

  LaTourette praises Kasich as a fellow congressman who engineered the balanced budget deal in the 1990s with the Clinton administration -- and as a governor who expanded Medicaid.

“If he thinks it’s good for the people he represents, he embraces it as he did and he’s taken a lot of grief for it. I think who he is today is who he was yesterday, which is why what happened in 1997 is relevant.”

Right message, wrong year?
But he acknowledges that message may be a hard sell in this election year.

“I don’t know anybody who is smart enough to have predicted that this was the way that this race was going to come down – on either side of the aisle.”

He recalls a former advisor to President Clinton, Paul Begala, answering the question a year ago of who each party’s nominee would be.

“And he said to roaring laughter, ‘Well, I know it’s not going to be Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.’”

Harnessing the anger
He says the world’s been turned around by voter anger “and I think that the Sanders campaign and the Trump campaign and to some extent the Cruz campaign have tapped into their anger” which LaTourette says is “justifiably out there in many quarters (though) I don’t think they’re harnessing it the right way.

So Kasich “initially suffered because he was ... talking about governing the country, balancing the budget and getting everybody jobs rather than talking about building walls, calling people short, stupid and ugly.”

Trump is expected to benefit from independent and cross-over Democrats in Tuesday primary, and LaTourette says, “I understand their anger, I understand Donald Trump’s appeal to them on many different levels.”

“But at the end of the day, his mouth is writing checks that his actions will never be able to cash. He wouldn’t be the king of the United States;  he wouldn’t be emperor of the United States. He still has to work within the constitutional framework that our founders set up -- with the House, with the Senate, with the public. And there’s nothing in his rhetoric or style that would suggest he’s prepared to do it.

Down-ballot impact of the insurgent-in-chief?
LaTourette says the Trump appeal is likely to not to spill over -- at least in the primary – to other races in the state, including the three congressional races in which GOP incumbents are being challenged from the right. One of those is in his old district.

"I'd like to meet the man or woman who gets 100 percent of their way at home every day. That’s just not life."

“I don’t see a lot of coattails” in the primary, LaTourette says. But “moving forward and another reason John Kasich should be considered is: What I do fear is in November that if it is Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump in Ohio, Mrs. Clinton will in fact have some coattails and damage Republican down ballot races.”

Still, he says, all candidates what be circumspect.

“What I do know is what you can’t do as a candidate, you can’t beat up on him. Trump voters tend to be a little prickly and I think they’ll be fine with other choices in congressional races and mayors seats. ... But don’t beat up on their guy.

A watershed moment
LaTourette says overall, for the GOP, “This really is a watershed moment” in which some members of the tea-party faction are insisting on ideological purity.

“Most of them, 99 percent, are good decent honest hardworking taxpaying people who just care about their country.

“But you get some who just take this attitude that, ‘If I can’t get 100 percent of what I want, I’ll take my ball and go.’

“And that’s not the way the country was set up; that’s not how live is. And I don’t know how many folks in the tea party are married, but I’d like to meet the man or woman who gets 100 percent  of their way at home every day. That’s just not life.”

Former Ohio Congressman Steve LaTourette is campaigning for John Kasich for the GOP presidential nomination. He says Tuesday’s elections in Ohio and Florida are the party’s only hope of stopping Donald Trump from becoming the GOP nominee. And if Trump loses both states, a contested convention in Cleveland would be the likely next step.