Kasich, McAuliffe on COVID-19’s Impacts on Campaigns, Elections, and Voter Security

April 17, 2020 by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Despite continued uncertainty over how the Coronavirus pandemic will end, its economic impact will surely cast a shadow over the November election, according to a pair of former governors.

Govs. John Kasich, a Republican of Ohio, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat of Virginia, spoke about COVID-19’s potential impact on the upcoming presidential campaign, election, and voter security at a virtual forum from the Meridian International this week. 

In a discussion moderated by Susan Page of USA Today, the pair also weighed in on how they believe governors have stepped up to the plate during the pandemic. 

“Everybody’s going to be watching how the president is going to handle this all the way through,” Kasich said early on in the discussion. “People will be focused on how he’s handling the virus, how he’s projecting his leadership … but come November, the question may be more about the economic situation than the virus. It always seems to come down to the pocketbook in every election.”

McAuliffe agreed. 

“It’s all going to be about the economy. [Biden] is in a tough spot now,” he said. “He’s not a governor; he doesn’t have the briefing room daily. But he has an advantage — our party has coalesced faster than ever before … Democrats love to wring their hands, but we have got plenty of time.” 

McAuliffe also believes that Trump squandered his advantage as the incumbent through his performance in the White House briefing room in recent weeks.

“Trump’s Trump. He’s going to have a hard time. Suburban women have left him in droves,” the Virginian said.

Kasich said regardless of Trump’s perceived failings, Biden will still need to present concrete plans for his presidency and demonstrate vigor to get the job done. 

“We’re not going to go back to the old normal,” Kasich said. “How are business sectors going to have to be reconstructed? These are the kinds of ideas that are going to convince people that we have a plan going forward. But it’s going to require new architecture.”

Though both parties have said in recent days that they are committed to holding their nominating conventions this summer, both McAuliffe and Kasich questioned that wisdom.

“I personally think it’s unlikely to have conventions in this difficult environment,” McAuliffe said. “What do you lose? You don’t really miss out on anything. For the amount of time and money that goes into it, I think it’s highly unlikely [that we have a convention], and if we don’t have it, we’ll have a virtual one and save ourselves a lot of headaches.”

“Whether we’re talking about the convention or how we vote, it’s not going to be the same,” Kasich said.

A long-time advocate for mail-in voting, Kasich said he expects to see a dramatic increase in voting by mail this year.

“It’s the safe thing to do,” he said. “If you don’t [yet] have a vaccine, people that are older with underlying conditions, they’re not going to go out to vote. No way!”

“As much as we can move to vote by mail, we should do it,” McAuliffe agreed, adding that there is no statistical data to prove that mail-in voting benefits one party or the other. 

“The goal should be to make it easier for people to vote. That’s it,” he said.

“We trip on the anthills on the way to the pyramids,” quipped Kasich, suggesting that any hesitancy to move forward with a common-sense policy because it may benefit a rival political faction is foolish. “I think policymakers are just stuck in their old ways.” 

“Besides, every election since Trump we have seen a record Democratic turnout,” McAuliffe said. Whether in-person or by mail, he believes that momentum will go through 2020.

For his part, Kasich is cautious. He didn’t endorse Trump in 2016, but he said, “It’s a huge mistake to think Trump could not win reelection.”

Perhaps it will all come down to running mates, though neither thinks that’s likely. 

“It’s going to be a woman,” McAuliffe stated definitively of Biden’s running mate, excluding himself from offering too much information as he thought he was too close to the matter, serving on the campaign. “The single biggest thing in his mind is who he thinks could take over his job and assume the presidency the next day. Ultimately, [they have to be both] qualified and able to have a personal relationship together to take the nation to the next level.”

“But who we pick for V.P., in the end, doesn’t matter,” asserted Kasich. “V.P. picks are always talked about, but it’s my sense that it’s not front and center when people vote. I’d say [all the V.P. talk] is overrated.” 

Also overrated? Any discussion of the election not taking place on November 3, 2020. Both are adamant that, however voting happens, it will take place as directed and specified in the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution. 

And while a lot of focus has been on the president, presidential elections, and the federal government, these former governors say that the hard work of the nation’s state governors shouldn’t be overlooked in what Kasich calls a “black swan event,” and that they believe in the coalitions that governors are forming to move the country forward.

“I’m not surprised that governors have stepped up to the plate,” said McAuliffe. “We have to do this every day.”

“[Governors] could sit in a room and figure anything out,” agreed Kasich. “I think governors realize we are all in this together and it’s necessary for us to work together. And this is a great opportunity for creative thinking.”

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