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Journal Editorial Report

And then there were 16

This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," July 25, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on "The Journal Editorial Report," and then there were 16? As John Kasich jumps into the Republican race, we'll look at the state of the Republican field, the current front-runners and potential dark horses, the defining issues of campaign and threat of third- party run.

Plus, Hillary Clinton falters in some key battleground states. What's behind in her slide in the polls and how are Democrats reacting?

Welcome to "The Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.

Ohio Governor John Kasich announced his run for the White House this week rounding out at 16 the largest Republican field in modern memory. The two-term governor and former House budget chairman is hoping his reform record will help him break through the Republican crowd. But does he pose a threat to any of the current front-runners?

Here with a look at the state of the Republican race is Wall Street Journal columnist and Manhattan Institute senior fellow, Jason Riley; editorial board member, Joe Rago; and editorial board member, Mary Kissel, host of "Opinion Journal" on WSJ Live.

So, Joe, you're too young to remember this but this the most impressive, biggest field I can recall since 1998 when they had Bob Dole, George W. Bush, Jack Kemp, and others. So very impressive. John Kasich, number 16. Is he getting in too late for this, or do you think he actually could be a significant player?

JOE RAGO, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I think the size of the field makes it a lot easier for some of these what we might think of as more marginal candidates, right now to break into the top. So why not go for it. This is going to be a volatile, long race.

GIGOT: Jason, what do you think his strengths are as a candidate, John Kasich?

JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST & SENIOR FELLOW, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: He's got legislative experience, 18 users in Congress. He's got executive experience in Ohio where the economy has grown, unemployment is down. The economy is doing much better than the neighbors, that neighborhood and --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Including Wisconsin.

RILEY: Including Wisconsin. But I think his big selling point is address, from Ohio, A big swing state. The next election, decided by a dozen or so swing states. John Kasich is going to say I can bring Ohio. I just won election by 31 points last year. I think that's what he's going to be selling.

GIGOT: Good reform record, Mary? A tax cutter in Ohio, cutting marginal income tax rates. The state before he took over really hadn't grown in a decade. Now it's growing over 2 percent.

MARY KISSEL, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER & "OPINION JOURNAL" HOST: You heard some numbers when he announced for president. They are impressive. He took a billion dollar deficit, turned it into $2 billion surplus, 350,000 new jobs. Some $5 billion in tax cuts. Has he a lot to discuss on the trail.

GIGOT: What about the weaknesses, Joe? You follow John Kasich and have written some editorials about him. What would hold him back given what Mary and Jason have said are some impressive credentials.

RAGO: He's a very idiosyncratic and undisciplined politician. Anybody who watched his announcement speech, which was almost ad-libbed would notice.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: So pretty much anything can happen when he's talking?

RAGO: Sure. I think he has a strength, which he wants to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party.

GIGOT: That's important.

RAGO: To some groups they have traditionally not succeeded. He can take that too far into a king of moralizing. He expanded Medicaid under Obamacare.

Right. A lot of other governors have not, although Chris Christie did in New Jersey. But Scott Walker, Rick Perry did not.

RAGO: Right. He didn't merely expand it but became leading Republican evangelist for why his colleague should do so.

GIGOT: He overwrote his legislature, which didn't want to do it, right?

RAGO: Right. He bypassed then legislature and barnstormed the country going to other states that hadn't expanded and saying you need to do this to help the poor, if you don't do it, you're a person of bad faith, you're an ideologue. So I think that's kind of a problem for him. He's got to government, say my brother keeper's type mentality here where government programs are an emblem of your support for helping less fortunate.

GIGOT: That won't work with the tea party?

KISSEL: No, it won't work at all. Look, I'm not sure who he challenges in this race just yet because he's kind of on the margin, number nine, 10, 11 in the polls right now.

GIGOT: He has to be in the top 10 to get into the debate.

But I think he's going to try to break through, Jason, in New Hampshire. He's got to do it in New Hampshire. He's probably going to do well in New Hampshire. He's already on the air up there in New Hampshire. I think he's got a breakthrough with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker. Those are the people who are --

(CROSSTALK)

RILEY: He doesn't have Walker and Rubio's youth. He doesn't have Bush's name recognition and money --

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY: -- but those are the guys he's got to compete with.

GIGOT: And so you agree with that, Mary?

KISSEL: Well, yeah. He's going to run as a reform governor from the swing state, somebody who, as Joe said, reaches across the aisle. He's got some tough competition in Bush and particularly in Walker who had made more of a national lead for himself. Kasich doesn't have the name recognition of these two guys yet.

GIGOT: Yeah, I think that's an issue. If he did have more name recognition, if people understood -- which is interesting, because he had a show on FOX for a few years, but it goes to show, if it was a few years ago, they forget you on TV.

(LAUGHTER)

You're out of sight, out of mind.

(LAUGHTER)

When we come back, with less than two weeks to go before the Republican debate, we continue our look at the state of the GOP field. Will Donald Trump's immigration emphasis and threats of a third-party run do long-term damage to the GOP? Our panel weighs in next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to run as a Republican. I think I'll get the nomination. We'll see soon enough. I think I'll get the nomination. The best way to win is for me to get the nomination and run probably against Hillary.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GIGOT: Continuing now with a look at the Republican field and the state of the GOP race with less than two weeks to go until the first debate. That was Donald Trump at the Texas border Thursday continuing to push the issue of immigration and not exactly backing off a threat from earlier in the week to launch a third-party candidacy if his Republican bid runs aground.

We're back with Jason Riley and Joe Rago. And Wall Street Journal editorial board member, Dorothy Rabinowitz, also joins the panel.

So, Jason, before we get to Trump, let's step back and look at the Republican field. Who do you think is in the top tier as we get into summer?

RILEY: I think still a three-man race with Bush and Walker and Rubio leading the pack.

GIGOT: Those three are the front runners?

RILEY: I believe so. So, yes.

GIGOT: I tend to agree with you. I think they have the broadest appeal to all the factions. Bush is doing well among relatively social conservatives. That surprises some people but he does. They can appeal across Republican spectrum, Joe?

RAGO: Yeah, the big difference in this race isn't between moderates and conservatives. It's about political strategy. They are united on policy in very broad terms. But it's between the uniters and dividers. Does the GOP mean to broaden coalition, appeal to more voters, or does it need to divide, does it need to follow the Obama path of polarizing the country and driving out core voters.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Democrats think that's a good strategy because they feel they are in the majority with Obama coalition. Polarize that helps them. Republicans, they lost five of the last six popular votes in the election. They need to expand the Republican voting pool.

RAGO: That's right. Look, their basic problem is they need more voters. The question is how to find them, whether it's through sympathy with more of the country, trying to unite the country, or just get out what they say is the Republican base.

GIGOT: You put Bush, Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Perry in that uniter category. It's still out. We still don't know where Walker will fall in that divide.

RAGO: I don't think we know that yet. The other ones might be Ted Cruz, for example, would be one of the polarizers.

GIGOT: Who do you think, Dorothy, among other candidates? Not the frontier, who has the best chance to break out and --

(CROSSTALK)

DOROTHY RABINOWITZ, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: I have a hard time thinking about that. I don't get beyond that. Cruz never had a chance to begin with. I think his comments on Donald Trump did not help, you know, the appeasing and all of the rest. But I really do think we are located without dark horses. If I had my way as a citizen, I'd be happy to see Lindsey Graham in the top 10.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: Well, you like him on foreign policy.

RABINOWITZ: Lots of people do but it's not going to happen.

GIGOT: Yeah, he's the --

(LAUGHTER)

RABINOWITZ: But I have to say when you count Walker in the top 10, the more I listen to him, the more I think, he promised for one thing his willingness to go and -- were he president, he would announce for having a state's vote on whether you could have one man, one woman. This is the kind of polarizing reach out that is not going to play well.

GIGOT: Jason, Donald Trump, how do you explain his surge in the polls? He's the one who has broken through so far, if you look at some of the surveys.

RILEY: He's a celebrity. He knows how to get attention. This is what he does. The press has played along. I think --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Democrats love his rise. They can't stop talking about it.

(LAUGHTER)

RILEY: And I think that explains the polls largely. I don't think it's going to last but I think it does explain why he's been able to get where he's gotten so far.

GIGOT: One of the impacts, Dorothy, of Trump in the race has been he's really taken -- sucked all the oxygen out, apart from front-runners Jason mentioned, the other candidates can't break through. People are having a hard time getting media attention. They give speeches and nobody pays attention to them. You saw Rick Perry attack Cruz, to get attention, but saying he's a threat to conservatism. If Donald Trump would get the nomination and also defend his record on the Texas border where he has done a lot to --

(CROSSTALK)

RABINOWITZ: Yeah, he is a threat to conservatism. He's a threat to the whole chance of the Republican Party.

GIGOT: Donald Trump.

RABINOWITZ: Yes. Indeed, he is. It's largely because people bought into the notion that Americans have found their angry voice. The delusion that Americans are a great writhing mass of furious people waiting for a man like Donald Trump to come along to help them out is simply ludicrous.

GIGOT: How do you explain his surge?

RABINOWITZ: I explain his surge by the fact this is a spectacle and people have bought into this spectacle. So when you ask Joe Blow on the street, what do you think, oh, yeah, he's great, he's saying the right things. In their hearts, they go home and say they don't work that way, they don't work that way. They don't vote for people. It is good fun. It is not serious. People are believing in all the cliches of the American people, leaving the idea that everybody is angry at the government. No, they lead their owns lives. They go home.

GIGOT: Has Trump peaked?

RAGO: I think he has. There have always been hucksters, cranks and populists who see a brief rise in American politics going back to William Jennings Bryan at the turn of the century. The body politic has a way of expelling these invaders.

GIGOT: Thank you. We're going to watch it.

Well, the Republican field may not be the only one in turmoil as a new poll shows Hillary Clinton in trouble in some critical swing states. We'll take a look at what's behind her sliding numbers and how Democrats are responding next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Well, some bad news for the Democratic front-runner this week as a new poll shows Hillary Clinton trailing her top GOP rivals in key battleground states. For the first time, Clinton is lagging behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio in head-to-head matchups in Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. While a majority of voters in all three of those states say they don't think she's honest and trustworthy.

We're back with Jason Riley, Mary Kissel and Dorothy Rabinowitz.

So, Mary, how do you explain these polling numbers? They're precipitous fall?

KISSEL: It certainly is. It's easy to explain. The more you see her, the less you like her. It's really her favorability and unfavorability rating is worrisome for people.

(CROSSTALK)

KISSEL: Well, look, it's several things. She is scandal ridden. You have the e-mail scandal, the Benghazi scandal, the Clinton Foundation scandal, the fact she has her buddies at the State Department double dipping with a job there and a job outside in the private sector. She is a hypocrite. She denounces banking and she takes banker's money. She says bankers are broke --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: That's popular in the Democratic Party.

KISSEL: It is but when she gets in front of the camera, people don't like her. She doesn't have the political skills of Bill. She is grating and hard to listen to.

GIGOT: You don't think she's a good candidate, Dorothy?

RABINOWITZ: That's right. And I was thinking, for all of these facts, which are really quite relevant --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: You said the core political skill.

RABINOWITZ: The core political skill and the fact this is a person not only who does not light up the room, a person who is difficult to listen to. I used to think if you wanted to extract information from terrorists, put them in a room with Hillary Clinton and force them to listen to a speech and they'll tell you everything after that.

(LAUGHTER)

GIGOT: I don't think that's true on the Republican base, Dorothy. A lot of them like to listen to her.

(LAUGHTER)

I mean the Democratic --

RABINOWITZ: The Democrats.

(CROSSTALK)

RABINOWITZ: The other thing, the contrast between Hillary Clinton and the three front-runners, it is not just a fantasy. These are serious candidates, the Republican top three. They work very well, Marco Rubio and the rest, you cannot help but pose to the American people, and they'll say, yes, I choose them.

GIGOT: Jason, the numbers are about to me -- because the head-to-head matchups this is a long way to go. But the favorability numbers, those -- and the unfavorable --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: That's a problem.

RILEY: And I'm sure that's what's jumped out to Team Clinton looking at that. And since we do have the drip, drip, drip of a scandal, the worry is those will only rise and now we have news the inspector general, the Department of Justice --

GIGOT: Two inspectors general.

RILEY: -- two inspectors general, Department of Justice --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: At the State Department.

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: -- the Justice Department.

RILEY: -- are looking into the e-mail scandal and whether or not we're going to get more of that coming out.

GIGOT: They've requested an investigation at the Justice Department into the handling of the e-mails, which suggests not just her handling of it, Hillary Clinton's, but the overall State Department. How big a threat is that, Mary?

KISSEL: I think it's a big threat and it's really a conundrum for the Clinton campaign. What do you do? The more she's in front of voters and has to confront the questions, the less she's liked. On the other hand, she can't maintain this bunker- like campaign forever.

GIGOT: But she insists they release no classified information. She personally said no classified information over e-mails. If this goes into the bowels of the Justice Department and they look at it and nothing happens, is it really that big a threat to her campaign?

RILEY: But the big concern here, I think, for Hillary Clinton is going to be does she look vulnerable. The Democratic Party is of two minds about Hillary Clinton. The establishment wants to rally around her and say we want to decide on a candidate early, so suck up what you don't like about her, we're going to go with her. There's still the grassroots, the people -- Bernie Sanders, people looking for an alternative to Clinton to come into the race, to the extent that these vulnerabilities in Clinton continue to rise. I think you might see another more serious candidate get into the race. And there are grassroots people out there --

(CROSSTALK)

GIGOT: Bernie Sanders is not going to be the president of the United States.

RABINOWITZ: No, he's not. What's really going to happen there comes a time when the pot boils over, you've been listening to Hillary Clinton, great right-wing conspiracy, all these people with these ridiculous, fantastic charges, and one day people begin to see there's something to this. And I think this is what has happened. People are cottoning to the fact you cannot listen to the grating voice say over and over and over again, what are they talking about, they are the Republicans.

GIGOT: But Barney Frank, the former Congressman, liberal, said to Democrats, let's get behind her because this is the only way we're going to prevent an entire Republican government.

KISSEL: Yeah, I think there's some panic going on, on the left. "Salon," a far left media outlet, said these numbers are falling into gruesome territory and really racing along.

GIGOT: All right. Thank you all.

We have to take one more break. When we come back, "Hits & Misses" of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

GIGOT: Time now for our "Hits & Misses" of the week.

Mary, start us off.

KISSEL: A really big miss to President Obama, who appeared on "The Daily Show" this week and said the IRS's biggest problem is its lack of funding. What is it with this guy? He wants money for every regulatory agency. By the way, Mr. President, the IRS's biggest problem is that is a politicized vindictive agency that targeted conservative groups, pro-Israel groups, and the administration is slow on those investigations. That is the IRS's problem.

GIGOT: Joe?

RAGO: Paul, ObamaCare is driving a wave of consolidation in the health care industry. It's a merger frenzy leading to much bigger hospitals, much bigger insurers. This week, Anthem announced a $48 billion tie-up with Cigna. In the last month, the number of major health insurers has dropped from three to five. This is leading to less consumer choice, less competition and potentially higher costs.

GIGOT: All right.

Jason?

RILEY: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has been trying to stop the car service Uber from expanding in the city. He favors the traditional cab companies that contribute to political campaigns. This week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stepped in on the side of Uber. So that's good for the governor, a hit for the governor, and a win for consumers who love Uber.

GIGOT: I agree with that, Jason, thank you, as a consumer --

(LAUGHTER)

-- and as somebody who needs to get around the city.

And, remember, if you have your own hit or miss, be sure to tweet it to us on JERonFNC.

That's it for this week's show. Thanks to my panel and to all of you for watching. I'm Paul Gigot. We hope to see you right here next week.

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