Gov. Robert Bentley Endorsing John Kasich Is An Unexpected Boost For The Medicaid-Loving Conservative

We've been so focused on Donald Trump's free helicopter rides lately that we've had little time to focus on what kinda-sorta-actually matters: politician endorsements. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the only Medicaid-loving conservative in the race, is picking up a solid endorsement on Monday that could greatly raise his profile in the South. Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama plans to endorse Kasich for the Republican Party nomination at an event in downtown Birmingham, according to AL.com. This marks the first major endorsement for Kasich, who is looking to gain supporters in the Deep South despite his more moderate positions on issues such as affordable health care and LGBTQ rights.

Bentley told AL.com that his reason for endorsing Kasich is simple: The Alabama governor believes Kasich is the most experienced Republican in the crowded race. "I feel he can win. I really do," Bentley told the news source.

But Bentley said he also admires a more personal quality about Kasich. "He didn't call me and ask me to endorse him. I called him," Bentley told AL.com. "I did because in the end I see in him the same reason I have for serving – we are here for people, here to help make the lives of people better."

Bentley seems to be referring to Kasich's push for certain government programs such as Medicaid and affordable health care — a rarity for conservative politicians these days. Yet, as AL.com points out, there's also some irony in a governor who refused to expand Medicaid (Bentley) backing a governor who wholeheartedly supports increasing health-care funding for low-income people (Kasich).

Kasich isn't the only GOP candidate who's received a weighty gubernatorial endorsement this election season. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has also received support from not one, but two Republican governors. Like Christie, both of the governors who've given him a ringing endorsement hail from traditionally "blue" states.

Gov. Paul LePage of Maine was the first Republican governor to endorse the straight-talking New Jersey politician. LePage, a Tea Party conservative, was also the first sitting Republican governor to endorse any candidate in the 2016 race. "He’s not gonna be a politician and talk out of both sides of his mouth," LePage said of Christie in July. "What he’s gonna do is tell you things you may not want to hear but you need to hear, and then he’s gonna go to work to fix them."

Several weeks later, Christie received an even bigger endorsement from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. "I happen to believe [Christie's] exactly the leader we need," Hogan said in July. "I think he should be the next president and I think he will be the next president."

It's not a surprise that Christie, a moderate and by all accounts social liberal (regardless of his recent pandering to the Religious Right) has won over Republicans in "blue" states. What is surprising is the lack of support for bigwigs Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida. So far, the one-time GOP frontrunners have failed to garner support from their fellow state leaders.