WaPo: Romney trying to recruit Sasse, Kasich for indie-conservative presidential run

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What do Ben Sasse, John Kasich, and Marc Cuban have in common politically? Er, not much … except for being wooed as potential independent presidential candidates. The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker update readers on efforts to find a conservative alternative to Donald Trump to run in November, but so far it seems that even another reality-show billionaire wants to take a pass:

Those involved concede that an independent campaign at this late stage is probably futile, and they think they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans — including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson — are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action.

Their top recruiting prospects are freshman Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a conservative who has become one of Trump’s sharpest critics, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who withdrew from the 2016 race May 4. Romney is among those who have made personal overtures to both men in recent days, according to several people with knowledge of the former Massachusetts governor’s activities. …

The recruiters also delved into the world of reality television for someone who might out-Trump Trump: Mark Cuban, the brash billionaire businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team.

So far, the effort has come up empty:

Again and again, though, these anti-Trump Republicans have heard the same tepid response: Thanks, but no thanks.

Cuban’s inclusion on this list of potential draftees seems … a bit odd. Cuban may be on the conservative side, but he has more in common with Trump than just a big bank account. Politically, he sees himself as more libertarian than conservative — except he favors bolstering the social safety net rather than reforming it. In fact, last August Cuban provided almost the same thoughts on health-care policy as Trump has, using the same word-for-word formulation that angered conservatives:

As far as his political ideology goes, Cuban said that he’d like to be a libertarian but he wants to maintain more of the social safety net than libertarian stalwarts.

“Not so much libertarian as much as I’d like to be libertarian,” Cuban told Hansen of his beliefs. “When I think libertarian, it’s ‘as small of a government as we can get, right now — you just cut right through it and you make it [smaller] right now.’ That’s not real. There’s got to be a process. There’s got to be a transition. As a country, we make decisions. We make decisions that we’re going to provide healthcare, right? We don’t just let people die on the street. You can go into any hospital and they have to treat you.”

Last week, Cuban mused about his desire to join the Republican Party, but he thought the party was too rigid and too unwelcoming to candidates who deviate from its orthodoxy. Cruz told WFAA that, like the case with the Libertarian Party, he supports more government intervention than mainstream Republicans.

Almost a year before that, Cuban told Republicans to stop pushing social conservatism, a suggestion that angered Rush Limbaugh at the time:

Mark Cuban has got the answer. “Mark Cuban has some advice for the Republican Party: Drop the social issues. ‘If I was going to give guidance to the Republican Party, I’d say, ‘Stay completely out of social issues.'” He said it on CNBC today. I’ve been hearing that since 1992.

I can’t tell you how many years, since 1992, that I have been hearing: “The Republican Party better get rid of the social issues or it doesn’t have a prayer.” And the theory, here’s what Mark Cuban says. “If you stay out of social issues, then the conversation from that side will only be about economics, and business, and growing business, and ideas. It should be easy! The generation of sex, drugs, and rock and roll didn’t turn out quite like we planned, right? We thought we’d be like, ‘Live free. Stay out of the bedroom. Stay out of everybody’s lives. Let’s just focus on business.’ It turned out to be the exact opposite.”

By the way, there are plenty of Republicans that have stopped talking about social issues. They still get hammered with ’em. The Republicans are gonna get hammered no matter what they do. The Republicans are gonna get hammered. Look at the War on Women. There wasn’t one. There isn’t War on Women, other than the one the Democrats conduct. There is not a War on Women. And yet it exists. And it’s not because of anything the Republicans do. It’s not because of anything the Republicans have said. It was totally made up out of whole cloth.

Last July, Cuban even expressed an openness for running this November … but as Trump’s running mate. He later decided against jumping into the pool, but he sounds like a choice that would make some sense for Trump’s approach to ideology, too. “”I’m not dogmatic in any way, shape, or form. I try to take every issue independently.”

Given all of that, the pursuit of Mark Cuban looks like a mirror image of the arguments made in support of Donald Trump. The best argument for conservatives is that he has the bankroll to kickstart an organization that could possibly compete, at least in a few states … but not in his home-business state of Texas, where the deadline has already passed for getting on the ballot. Otherwise, he’s not a movement conservative or even close to it — just an outsider who wants to sell pragmatism rather than consistent application of political philosophy.

That sounds familiar, eh?

Cuban told Costa and Rucker that he demurred because “there isn’t enough time.”Kasich and Sasse don’t have the broad political support or the resources, either. That’s true of the whole independent-bid project, and also that it’s out of options.