Ohio Gov. John Kasich. (CBS)
Opinion writer

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), appearing on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, was asked about a 2020 presidential run. He listed the sorts of issues he’s concerned about (“rising debt, the problem and inability to deal with immigration, the problems that we have as America alone in the world. You know, this is what I consider a rotten deal with the Saudis to look the other way”) and said he’s seriously considering a run. This exchange followed:

KASICH: Let’s just say that Donald Trump is nominated and Elizabeth Warren is nominated, and you have this ocean of people who sit in the middle. Is there a legitimate opportunity for a third party, bipartisan kind of ticket to be able to — to score a victory or to have a profound impact on the future of American politics?

That’d be something that I would talk to you about offline and get your view, because we don’t know at this point. In other words —

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But everybody that’s looked at it in the past says it’s just not possible. You’ve seen it before, there seems to have been a ceiling.

KASICH: Well you know what? You know what? No one thought a guy like Donald Trump would be elected president. No one thought we’d have electric cars. No one thought we could — we could talk on phones and see the person we’re talking to. I mean, this is a time of change — dynamic change. And you can’t judge tomorrow on the basis of what happened yesterday.

Here’s a suggestion for Kasich: Pledge now, that if Republicans nominate President Trump and Democrats pick someone on the far left, he will run for president. That promise would serve an important function in and of itself, namely giving Republicans looking to challenge Trump in a GOP primary some incentive and giving Democratic primary voters reason to pick a candidate closer to the center. In short, if there’s no major-party candidate within shouting distance of the center of the political spectrum, we’ll need a third choice. Perhaps both major parties will choose wisely and a Kasich presidential run will be superfluous. Nevertheless, there is a good chance that neither will come up with a credible pick, and if so, many Americans would rest better knowing that there was a credible third option.

Kasich would have several fine running mates to choose from, but perhaps none better than former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu, who describes himself as a “radical centrist.” He’s also made his mark as a racial healer, taking down Confederate statues in his city and delivering one of the most profound speeches on race in years. He recently told New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, “Centrism has come to be known as a lukewarm version of not standing for anything so you’ll stand for everything.” He disputes that characterization. “I call myself, like, a radical centrist. Every organization I’ve taken over has been in, like, meltdown, and I had to build it back up. So, it requires really hard, tough decisions,” he said. “But, those things always require some level of compromise.”

The ideological distance between a Kasich Republican (who expanded Medicaid, talks about leaving no one behind and insists that the United States defend universal human rights internationally) and a pragmatic mayor who argues that the Democratic Party cannot “concede the issues of faith, family or country to the national Republican Party” is much smaller than the gap between Kasich and Trump — or between Landrieu and, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

There are certainly other combinations of moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats who might fill that chasm if both major political parties come up with extreme or unfit presidential candidates. Even the prospect of such a ticket should encourage primary voters to avoid the extremes and reject candidates who haven’t demonstrated any capacity for governance.

Think about an administration that doesn’t accept the lies of a foreign autocrat over our intelligence community, doesn’t think the trade deficit is a debt we must repay to China, doesn’t venerate the Confederacy, doesn’t deny climate change or the risks of gigantic debt, and does speak in the language of consensus and unity. A lot of Americans would say: Where do we sign up?

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