Only Kasich nomination can save the GOP

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If Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump can still win RNC: New FBI review of Clinton emails 'stunning development' GOP senator questions timing of FBI's Clinton emails review MORE wins the Republican nomination for President, it will spell the end of the Republican Party's legitimacy for years to come. Many GOP leaders have realized this and have been candid in their concerns about Trump as the nominee, but what they are not talking about is what happens to the party if someone else is nominated. While Trump’s nomination would all but guarantee immediate disaster for the GOP, nominating anyone other than Ohio Governor John Kasich will merely delay said disaster.

Although many Republican leaders are criticizing Trump and warning of how his candidacy is harming the party, it is those Republican leaders who created the very disaster they are now trying to avert. For years elected Republican officials have increasingly pandered to a small minority of extremely conservative voters—all in an effort to gain votes. As a result moderate Republicans are being marginalized right out of the party, and if the GOP nominates Trump, that sends a message to moderate, common sense Republicans that they are no longer welcome in the party. The irony of the ostracism of moderate Republicans by a Trump nomination is that Trump himself is not a conservative. He is a moderate liberal overall, yet because he has espoused extreme conservative views on immigration and been largely silent on details for other issues, he has won over the support of a significant amount of the Republican base.

A similar personae non grata message would be sent to moderate Republicans by nominating Texas Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzTrump knocks Kasich for breaking pledge Democrats pounce on Cruz's Supreme Court comments Brent Budowsky: An epic battle for the future of Congress MORE (Texas) or neurosurgeon Ben Carson, both of whom are even more conservative than Trump. Throughout his Senate career, Cruz has shown that he cares more about keeping the spotlight on himself than working with his colleagues to actually accomplish something.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio won’t say if Trump would keep US safe Clinton fails to contain damage from email leaks Five takeaways from New Hampshire Senate debate MORE (Fla.) is considered the “establishment candidate” by some, but in an effort to compete with Trump, he has abandoned the few moderate principles he had and embraced the reality TV campaign style that made Trump popular. In an effort to appeal to ultra-conservatives, Rubio has flip-flopped on the immigration reform he once supported, but what is even more disappointing is that he has adopted the same degrading rhetoric as Trump. This was evident during the last debate when Rubio began countering Trump’s attacks not with issue-based responses, but ad hominem attacks on Trump himself. Following the debate, Rubio went on the offensive, mocking Trump’s “spray tan” and hair. Although the comments spurred cheers from Rubio supporters, they were hardly appropriate from a serious candidate, and such comments are unappealing to moderate Republicans who want to return the party to normalcy.

The only candidate left who can stave off the impending hemorrhage of moderates from the party is Kasich. Kasich has run a much more positive campaign than his opponents, and he has been unafraid of embracing his moderate positions. Make no mistake—Kasich is not a moderate in the true sense of the word; he is, for the most part, a traditional conservative. But what makes him unappealing to the far right, and appealing to moderates, is that he has refused to pander on issues like immigration, climate change, and Common Core.

Kasich has taken a common sense approach to immigration; instead of supporting the impractical deportation of all illegal immigrants, Kasich proposed meaningful immigration reform. A candidate supporting the deportation of all undocumented immigrants in the country may rile up some of the GOP base, but it is contrary to the will of the majority of Americans, and it is a plan that is impossible to enforce. Kasich has accepted that humans have an impact on the Earth’s climate and has proposed steps to reduce our carbon footprint; meanwhile, the rest of the GOP field has chosen to ignore the consensus of climatologists and pretend that there is no problem. With Florida Governor Jeb Bush having left the race, Kasich is the only candidate left who does not view Common Core as the educational Bogeyman.

None of these, or any other of Kasich’s positions, are radically liberal, and his consistency on the issues should be embraced by Republican voters during a primary season when most other candidates are in a race to pander to the far right. If Republican leaders want to show moderates that they are still welcome in the party and prevent Trump from destroying the GOP, they must coalesce behind Kasich as the alternative to Trump. Anything other than this will merely delay the party’s destruction rather than averting it.

Inks is a former member of the Michigan Republican Party State Committee and was the Republican nominee for Michigan’s 14th State House district in 2014.