Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) speaks during a news conference in June 2017 at the National Press Club in Washington. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
Opinion writer

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) plainly is keeping his options open for 2020. The more he speaks out, however, the more obvious it becomes that his strand of conservatism and his entire approach to politics put him outside the “mainstream” of today’s GOP.

In an appearance on CNN on Sunday, Kasich lashed out at congressional gridlock and gun absolutism. Referring to the teenagers who have been speaking out after the Florida school shooting, he told Dana Bash that “if you’re a strong Second Amendment person, you need to — you need to slow down and take a look at reasonable things that can be done to answer these young people.” He went on: “And, frankly, my hope is in the next generation. It’s — I mean, think about how bad it is in Congress. They can’t decide anything. They can’t decide that a kid that was brought here at 5 years of age who’s been here for 30 years ought to be able to stay. They can’t agree to anything down there.”

The discussion continued:

BASH: President Trump tweeted overnight that it’s very sad that the FBI missed signals about the Florida shooter because they were spending too much time trying to prove collusion with Russia.

What’s your reaction to that?

KASICH: I mean, I don’t agree with that. I think it’s an absurd statement, OK? Absurd.  The fact of the matter is, the FBI apparently made a terrible mistake. And people should be held accountable.

But we need leadership out of the executive. This is a great opportunity for common-sense steps that can be taken just in the area of background checks. There should be no ability to do a casual sale without somebody having to find out who they’re selling the gun to and what is involved. The president should be for that.

When it comes to the issue of mental illness … we need to take a look across the country that, if somebody’s mentally ill, it needs to be reported. And if somebody becomes emotionally distraught, it must be immediately examined by local law enforcement or the FBI.  … You don’t have to boil the ocean, but take some steps now. This is an opportunity. And I believe those who are Second Amendment advocates realize that common-sense, real reforms can happen in this country to answer the cries and the anguish of people all across this country who have lost loved ones.

You don’t hear many elected Republicans these days saying that rights need to be balanced with obligations or that half (or even a quarter) loaf is better than nothing. And in the Trump-era GOP, there’s even less of an emphasis on decency. Kasich implored lawmakers to look beyond the next election:

You know, Dana, in life, when you have a set of values, which are loving our children or somebody else’s children, sometimes, you have to put yourself at risk.

You put yourself at risk that you may not get reelected. But if you can move things forward in the name of peace in our country, and you lose an election, we will give you a badge and a crown. And you know what? There’s nothing — it’s not the end of the world because you lose an election. So, everybody’s got to look inside of themselves and think about their children and their grandchildren.

And, look, I’m not calling for some outright ban. I’m talking about small steps that can be taken that can be effective. And the Congress ought to do it.

That’s how you sound when you are talking to the whole country, not trying to rev up your hard-core supporters. That’s how you sound when you want to solve problems, not bash your opponents. Kasich sounds more presidential than Trump (honestly, doesn’t just about every governor?). But he is not speaking the same language as his fellow Republicans. Maybe an epiphany will hit Republicans in 2020, and they’ll listen to Kasich or some other voice of political sanity. Somehow, though, if Trump is still in office, I find that unlikely given the current GOP. That leaves Republicans such as Kasich with two options: Change the composition of the GOP electorate (appealing to women, millennials, nonwhites) or set up an independent or third-party run. The GOP, as it currently stands, isn’t about to admit error and reverse course. This gang is going down with the ship.