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If last week’s clash over whether the U.S. Senate should replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with a nominee from the Obama administration is any indication, this nation suffers from more than a constitutional crisis. And the introduction of utter extremism to the White House in 2017 could mean four or eight more years of Americans tearing one another apart as a hostile world looks on in glee.

Central Texans who vote in the March 1 Republican primary election have a chance to turn matters around by rejecting prospects who demonstrate little but demagoguery, deceit, cheap shots and hate, even if dressed up in florid evangelical guise and singing hollow hallelujahs. For the sake of this nation and future generations, we recommend Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich as the GOP nominee for president.

Kasich, 63, has significant experience not only on Capitol Hill as a deficit-busting congressman during the Gingrich days but also as a governor who cut taxes and produced a budget surplus. He placed the health concerns of poor people above partisanship by expanding Medicaid, tailored to the specific needs of his state. And to accomplish much of this, he reached across the aisle.

Listening to Kasich’s remarks at a town-hall meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, last week, Wacoans must have been astonished at how neatly Kasich’s priorities matched local challenges, including fighting human trafficking (subject of an engrossing public forum at Antioch Community Church a week ago) and sexual assault on college campuses (something Baylor University leadership has experienced significant problems in addressing).

Forget for a moment that other Republican candidates talk little of such issues. Consider Kasich’s remarks on the need to put the “pimps” behind human trafficking in jail and rehabilitate victims — something Unbound Waco executive director Susan Peters stressed at Antioch. Kasich was no less forceful in condemning sexual assaults on campuses as “a very severe criminal act.” Sadly, some people don’t seem to quite view it this way.

At times we wondered if Kasich had sat in on some Prosper Waco meetings, given his remarks on poverty, including the importance of job-training (which local leaders seek to make more uniform citywide), health care (another Prosper Waco priority) and just trying to make local employers more aware of the need to elevate and better compensate employees.

While Kasich’s life has been characterized by deep devotion, he also understands the need to balance church and state. During this very same town-hall meeting, he noted that politicians “are not there to be a preacher, you’re there to be a public official, and that’s the way it ought to be on the Supreme Court.”

In a campaign season characterized by red-hot rhetoric from candidates with highly questionable records of governance, Kasich draws upon many years of policy experience to offer some nuanced approaches on everything from immigration reform to assembling a grand alliance to battle Islamic terrorism. He has not fallen into the trap Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney did in 2012 of embracing far-right stances in the primary elections that made him impossible to the general electorate in November — a very real danger for the Republican Party in fall 2016.

Many Texans will rally around Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or New York impresario Donald Trump. But this nation needs serious healing under a seasoned hand who can lead us in smartly but compassionately addressing matters at home while bolstering our image abroad. This is no time for amateurs.

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