Ohio Governor John Kasich just started a long game of catch-up.
Today during a speech to a packed house at the (THE) Ohio State University, the former congressman and two-term governor became the 16th person to throw his name into the running for the Republican nomination for president.
You can watch the announcement here, via the New York Times (jump the video back to about 10 minutes in):
“I have decided to run for president of the United States,” he told a crowd at Ohio State University, his alma mater. “I have the skills, and I have the experience. I have the experience and the testing — the testing that prepares you for the most important job in the world.”
Mr. Kasich had been toying with running for months. By Tuesday morning, the faux mystery surrounding his candidacy was officially over even before his speech. The student union hall at Ohio State was festooned with “Kasich for America” banners, volunteers milled about in bright red “Kasich for Us” T-shirts and hundreds of eager supporters waited in the hot sun to get inside the hall.
I’ll let you leave your thoughts in the comments. It was a solid speech, but definitely not one that was meant to pander to the base, or convince ultra-conservatives more likely to ally with a Cruz or a Rubio to turn on their heel and join Team Kasich. Instead, he spoke like an Ohio republican who trends more moderate, but still manages to hit high points with more right-leaning voters.
Mr. Kasich, 63 years old, is counting on his mix of executive and Capitol Hill experience to catapult him to contender status. He’ll also tout his work on national security and budget issues during his tenure as a congressman from 1983 until 2001, as well as the economic turnaround in Ohio.
“He’s not scared to tell the base where they’re wrong,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist who served as a leadership aide in Congress during Mr. Kasich’s tenure. “I don’t think the ideological base is in love with Kasich, but I think in many ways they admire him.”
Indeed, many components of Mr. Kasich’s record could appeal to GOP voters.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee in Congress, he balanced the federal budget. “It’s very hard to do,” Mr. Kasich asserts in a new video.
On his watch in Ohio, multibillion shortfalls have been replaced by a $2 billion surplus.
The former Lehman Brothers executive also “worked in the real world as a commentator on Fox [News],” his video notes.
While Mr. Kasich can claim budget bona fides, he is likely to face fire from fellow Republicans for a variety of views that have diverged from conservative orthodoxy.
“Diverge” is an understatement. His support for Obamacare’s medicaid expansion and common core programs has turned him into a pariah with some conservatives, and that’s something he’s going to have to answer for with primary voters. Still, that’s what primaries are for; what works for Ohio may not work for Republicans across the country, and I expect he may have a difficult time making his message resonate over the protestations of the base.
Still, FivethirtyEight’s numbers show that, as far as ideological ratings are concerned, Kasich looks like a slightly more conservative version of America’s average Republican:
FT8’s article goes on to note that, although Kasich appears to represent a happy medium, the tone he takes when he defends his more moderate positions comes across as condescending, much like that of former presidential candidate John Huntsman, who failed to win any primaries:
Kasich’s problem is that he sounds a lot like Huntsman. That is, he defends moderate positions — often in a manner that comes off as condescending. Most prominently, he has embraced Medicaid expansion in Ohio. Once challenged on expansion, Kasich yelled, “I don’t know about you, lady, but when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.” It isn’t just what Kasich said, but how he said it. As Politico detailed, this type of reaction is fairly typical for Kasich. He likes to yell and to tell people, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The press, of course, loves it. In April, The Atlantic said Kasich “could be 2016’s most interesting candidate.” Vox called Kasich “the most interesting GOP presidential contender.”
But it’s not a good way to win over Republican voters.
This is where that emotional connection I keep talking about comes into play. Kasich will need to be careful with his voters, or risk becoming yet one more low-tier flash in the pan.
We’ll keep you updated on the state of his campaign.
Side note: I’ve spoken previously about Periscope, Twitter’s new livestreaming + livetweeting app. If you’ve never seen it in action, check out this stream by Ohio-based reporter Jeremy Pelzer. The quality could be better, but for me, Periscope is a “next big thing” tool for both candidates and activists who crave live coverage.DONATE
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