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Um, Charlie, wake up; the GOP needs you

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.Keith Bedford/Staff/File 2016

Paging Charles Duane Baker. Paging Charles Duane Baker.

Excuse me, I know Charlie is out fixing the brakes on an old Red Line train and doesn’t want any distractions, but could someone tell him that the GOP center hasn’t held, and that Donald Trump is now slouching toward Cleveland to be adorned?

Earlier this month, as New Hampshire voters were getting ready to go to the polls, Baker endorsed Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, saying he was concerned about the GOP’s slide toward polarizing figures like Trump and Ted Cruz.

And you can see why. Baker’s a policy guy who wants government to work. Trump is a bombastic blowhard whose ideas are only tenuously tethered to reality. Cruz is a smarmy Texas snake-oil salesman.


But the USS Christie went down like the Titanic in New Hampshire.

So what could Baker now do? Hmm. Charles is governor of Massachusetts, whose primary is part of next Tuesday’s political supernova. Am I the only one who sees an opportunity here?

It’s time for another endorsement. For those who live in the reality-based world, there are really only two choices: Marco Rubio, the first-term senator from Florida, and John Kasich, the second-term governor of Ohio.

The GOP establishment’s push, of course, is for Rubio. But the Kasich camp makes a strong argument that the party panjandrums are being myopic.

Consider: On March 15, both Florida and Ohio hold winner-take-all primaries. A new Quinnipiac poll shows Rubio losing Florida to Trump by 16 points; the latest Quinnipiac survey in Ohio has Trump up on Kasich, too, but only by five points, which is within the survey’s margin of error; another poll suggests that if Ohio becomes a two-man fight, Kasich would easily beat Trump. And if Kasich bests Trump in Ohio on the same day Rubio loses to him in Florida, he then becomes the GOP’s only realistic stop-Trump vehicle.


Meanwhile, add this to the case for Kasich: “He’s easily the strongest Republican against either of the Democrats in November,” notes Suffolk University pollster David Paleologos. “The polling data is clear as a bell.”

If Baker followed Bill Weld’s lead and endorsed Kasich, the Ohio governor could do well enough here to land solidly positioned on his next primary-season stepping stone, Michigan, on March 8. A strong showing there, meanwhile, would set up an Ohio victory the following week.

Yes, there’s a risk for Baker. If his endorsement is seen as having little effect, people might question his clout. But somehow, I think, he’d survive. What’s more, he might even cement his reputation as a guy willing to take some risks in pursuit of sensible politics.

So yes, it’s a gamble. But if ever there was a time for practical, nonbombastic Republicans to show a little boldness, that time has arrived.

Kasich is back in Massachusetts on Monday.

Could someone haul Charlie out from under that MBTA train before then?

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.