Endorsement: Kasich as Republican for U.S. president

As prelude to our endorsements for Tuesday's presidential primaries in Illinois, we must confess disappointment in the choices the voters will find.

The challenges facing the nation - the economy, runaway government spending, terrorism, nuclear threats, immigration, the ethnic and racial divides, the shrinking middle class, social issues, intractable partisanship, you name it - loom so large that they beg for the best in our national politics.

Instead, what do we get? Candidates in both parties running to the extremes. A crude brawl in one party. A cynical competition in the other party to further divide the nation.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect candidate. But there are clearly superior alternatives. We recommend John Kasich in the Republican primary.

It may be said that while Ohio Gov. Kasich has received the least fanfare of the four Republicans still actively campaigning, he is by far the most able.

In fact, this is a public servant who's had a hand in some of the most significant achievements of his time.

As a member of Congress, he led efforts as chairman of the House Budget Committee to balance the budget during the administration of President Bill Clinton - a remarkable feat that today seems herculean given the wild-spending ways of our federal government.

Kasich also was prominent in the landmark welfare reform measure passed in that era.

In addition, he became an expert in national security as a member for 18 years of the House Armed Services Committee, where he played a role in setting the stage for the stunning end of the Cold War.

As governor, he was instrumental in eliminating Ohio's $8 billion budget deficit and turning it into a $2 billion surplus, all while cutting taxes and creating jobs.

His record of accomplishments is impressive. As impressive is the spirit of collaboration he brings to his work. In an era of paralyzing intransigence between our two political parties, he has been a breath of fresh air. His philosophy is conservative to be sure, but he has an ability to work across the aisle with those who hold different points of view.

Whereas President Barack Obama has for eight years talked of finding common ground, Kasich actually finds it and gets government working to solve problems.

Kasich has one more attribute, which merits no small amount of appreciation. Whereas the other three Republicans still seeking the presidency have resorted to undignified campaigns characterized by juvenile attacks, Kasich has refused to succumb. He has maintained a positive message built around issues and thoughtful solutions. In the process, he's shown respect not just for the presidency and the process but also for the electorate.

For a time, we had held out hope that Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida would represent a new generation of common-sense optimism. How short he has fallen from that hope. His message seems to be perennially based on calculated political strategy rather than core beliefs.

Sen. Ted Cruz, meanwhile, is so constrained by rigid ideology and chilly personality that he'd be neither electable nor effective.

Donald Trump, we're afraid, is more show than tell, as we said Sunday, and more circus than substance.

Kasich faces long odds to gain the nomination. He's worthy of Republican votes anyway as the candidate most worthy of it.

Slusher: How to use our endorsements

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