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Carolyn Kaster / AP

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) — "the Johns," as insiders are calling them — have been making a flurry of joint appearances to talk about state-driven improvements to health care.

But Axios has learned that their duet is part of an alliance that's gaining momentum toward a possible joint independent bid for president in 2020, likely with Kasich at the top of the ticket:

  • The two, who got to know each other at conferences, plan to extend their joint platform from health care to two other hot policy areas: immigration and job creation.
  • On health care (with a detailed plan to be released soon), the two have broadened their efforts to a bipartisan group that includes 11 governors.
  • The Johns' jobs plan will focus on the coming displacement from automation, with prescriptions that include trade, workforce training — and an optimistic and hopeful message, balanced with an honest admission that some jobs just aren't coming back.
  • The two are talking to major media companies about a possible podcast or cable show to continue cementing their brand. Their conversations would include politics, policy, and pop culture.
  • In D.C. in early September, the two will hold a health-care conference that includes policy input from the American Enterprise Institute on the right and the Center for American Progress on the left.
  • Kasich, who's being advised by veteran consultant John Weaver, is keeping open all his options, including the possibility of primarying Trump in 2020.
  • Nothing subtle about any of this: Kasich has urged Hickenlooper to visit New Hampshire.
  • Both are 65 and both were born in the crucial electoral state of Pennsylvania, Kasich from the Pittsburgh side and Hickenlooper from the Philly side (corrected).
  • Both are proud policy wonks, and their staffs are said to get along famously.

Why it matters: National Dems so far haven't capitalized on Trump's record unpopularity and obsession with his base. But this is a creative coupling that'll get a ton of airtime, and maybe even traction.

The pushback: Some establishment Dems are apoplectic about the idea of Hickenlooper teaming up with a Republican. One top strategist told me: "No Dem wants Kasich anywhere near our ticket. Sounds like a No Labels fantasy, but moderate Dems would hate it."

But a veteran operative emails: "Our political system is completely broken. Something big and historic needs to happen to break the logjam. I'm a big Dem but I'm for anything that ... does away with this hyper-partisanship on both sides that is paralyzing our government."

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Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 6 highlights

An underwater view of swimmers including Team USA's Caeleb Dressel (R) in the final of the Olympic Tokyo Games men's 100m freestyle on July 29. Photo: François-Xavier Marit/AFP via Getty Images

There's been plenty of Olympics drama on day six of the Tokyo Games Thursday — notably China's women's swimming team beating the U.S. and Australia in the record-setting 4x200-meter freestyle relay.

The big picture: Katie Ledecky helped the U.S. win silver, which also beat the previous world record smashed by China's team. Team USA grabbed two more swimming gold medals, when Caeleb Dressel won the men's 100m freestyle and Bobby Finke triumphed in the first men's Olympic 800m freestyle.

Updated 2 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Team USA's Simone Biles during the women's team final on day four of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on Tuesday in Japan. Photo: Fred Lee/Getty Images

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles reacts to "love and support" after withdrawing from all-around gymnastics and team finals, citing her mental health

🏊‍♂️: Caeleb Dressel wins gold in men's 100m freestyle —Bobby Finke wins gold in first men's Olympic 800m freestyle

📷: In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 6 highlights

🗓: The Olympic events to watch today

🎾: "This one sucks more than the others," Naomi Osaka says on upset loss

🏃‍: Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

China wins Olympic gold in women's 4x200m freestyle relay, sets world record

Junxuan Yang, Muhan Tang, Yufei Zhang and Bingjie Li of Team China react after winning the gold medal in the women's 4 x 200m freestyle relay final. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

China grabbed Olympic gold in the women's 4x200m freestyle relay, in a surprise record win in Tokyo Thursday.

The big picture: Katie Ledecky made up time as Team USA's final swimmer to help the U.S. take silver. Australia, which was the heavy favorite, won the bronze. All three teams finished ahead of the previous world record pace.