Yesterday morning, presidential hopeful John Kasich joined Alabama Governor Robert Bentley at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham, where Gov. Bentley announced his endorsement of the Ohio governor’s presidential bid. In his statement following the announcement, Gov. Kasich touted the endorsement as an honor given Bentley’s “incredible record.”
“What’s also significant to me is that Gov. Bentley reached out to our campaign, unsolicited, to offer his support,” he went on to say.
This makes Gov. Bentley the third Republican governor to offer an endorsement to a presidential candidate—both Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Maine Gov. Paul LePage are throwing their support behind Chris Christie, who served as the chairman for the Republican Governors Association during their 2014 gubernatorial elections.
An endorsement of this nature, particularly so early in a primary campaign with such a wide field, is unusual. Kasich’s camp highlighted the handful of topics on which he and Bentley disagree in an effort to prove that this endorsement represents the governor’s leadership as a consensus builder.
However, the similarity that they conveniently glossed over is the governors’ weak fiscal records. Both Kasich and Bentley have been at odds with their Republican legislatures during budget negotiations over the last several months. Fortunately for Ohio taxpayers, the Republican House leadership was able to pass real tax relief that saved Ohioans over $3 billion more than would have been enacted by Kasich’s proposal. This contradiction has not stopped the governor from flaunting his fiscal record on the campaign trail as he attempts to win over the Republican base.
With this goal in mind, it begs the question why would Kasich want Gov. Bentley’s endorsement? Despite being a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, and subsequent pledge-breaker, Bentley’s fiscal record is abysmal. He reneged on his promise of “No New Taxes” and has called for a second special session in another attempt to strong arm the legislature into adding $300 million in new taxes. In a primary race where moderate candidates are vying for support from the conservative base, Gov. Kasich is hitching his horse to the wrong wagon.
Some early responders warned that Bentley’s endorsement is a blow to other governors, particularly fellow southerners such as Bobby Jindal or Jeb Bush, because Alabama is one of a handful of southern states holding an early primary—becoming known as the “SEC primary.” But Bentley’s endorsement will likely make no difference for Kasich in the early primaries. Not all endorsements are created equal, and when it comes to Gov. Bentley’s flagging reputation the unsolicited endorsement is irrelevant at best, and at worst an association Kasich’s team should be hesitant to embrace.