Ohio Gov. John Kasich today joined President Barack Obama's effort to push Congress to approve a sweeping Pacific Rim trade deal that has appeared doomed for months. Kasich went so far as to meet with Obama at the White House, then address reporters there on the Trans Pacific Partnership.
In the grandiose building that Kasich not long ago hoped to occupy after the election, the governor pushed what he called the economic benefits of free trade, but he focused just as heavily on geopolitical and national security politics. China and Russia – repressive regimes that are not parties to the trade deal -- are trying to gain leverage in the Pacific, Kasich said.
A failure of the United States to come to trade terms with such nations as Vietnam could give China and Russia leverage and cast a shadow on the United States' ability to keep its commitments, Kasich said.
Complicated politics? You bet. And calculated, too.
Here's what's going on.
What are the politics?
Obama is a Democrat, Kasich a Republican. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposes the 12-nation deal, commonly referred to as TPP. So does Democrat Hillary Clinton -- as do Ohio's two U.S. senators, Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown.
But that's not all. Another critic is the man leading the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. He said less than a month ago that the next president can renegotiate the Pacific deal, signaling he has no intention of bringing it to a vote this year. Unless both McConnell and his House counterpart, Speaker Paul Ryan, put the deal before the current Congress, it is dead under the current administration.
Can't the next president pick it up and push it for a new Congress?
He or she could. But since neither Clinton nor Trump like the Trans Pacific Partnership, that's a gamble, and Kasich said it'd be best not to take that bet.
"I'd love to think it could happen next year," Kasich said. "(But) I'm not convinced it can happen after this year."
So what's Kasich want, besides a change of mind from opponents?
He is playing a part in Obama's strategy to get Congress to ratify the deal after the November election but before the current session of Congress expires at year's end. He said he believes a lot of the current opposition is political, and that certainly won't change before the election. But during a lame-duck session, political points aren't as important.