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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