John Kasich: A Serious Candidate, Unlikely to Win

The governor of Ohio is a serious candidate. But he’s virtually unknown outside his home state.

Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio gives a speech, January 8, 2014
Republican governor John Kasich of Ohio gives a speech, January 8, 2014 (Governor’s Office)

John Kasich, the two-term governor of Ohio, was expected to announce his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination on Tuesday. Despite his sound credentials, it is difficult to see how Kasich might come out on top in a crowded primary field that includes higher-profile candidates with executive experience, such as Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker

Hardly a centrist, Kasich is seen as something of a moderate by Republican primary voters — those who know him, that is.

As Politico points out, the fact that he isn’t well-known outside Ohio is probably Kasich’s biggest challenge.

Campaign advisors believe “his plain-spoken approach and pugnacious style will garner the most appeal” in the early primary state of New Hampshire, Politico reports. It is due to vote in February.

Kasich isn’t the first candidate to count on independent-minded New Hampshirites to give him a shot at the nomination. Four years ago, Ambassador Jon Huntsman similarly tried to prove himself a viable contender by banking on the second state that will have a say in the nominating contest, after Iowa.

Like Huntsman, Kasich has a respectable résumé, serving in Congress for almost twenty years, including six years as chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, before twice winning election in one of the largest presidential swing states.

Like Huntsman, he is far more conservative than his detractors allow. Kasich opposes abortion, gun control and marriage equality, supports free trade and has enacted numerous tax cuts as governor, including a 10 percent reduction in state income taxes.

But like Huntsman, he insists on defending moderate positions — “often in a manner that comes off as condescending,” reports FiveThirtyEight.

Most prominently, Kasich accepted federal funds under President Barack Obama’s health reforms to expand Medicaid in Ohio, the program that pays health care for the poor.

Conservatives see this as a betrayal of their fight against “Obamacare”. But Kasich, once challenged by a voter, 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 unusual for Kasich to erupt into a tantrum. Another Politico story cites his temperament as a liability. Those who know the governor insist he doesn’t have anger problems but is rather an intense politician. “He’s an acquired taste, they contend — the kind of person who gives a better second impression than a first.”

But as one of sixteen candidates, Kasich may not get a second chance.

There is one advantage to his low name recognition, according to FiveThirtyEight. “That means Kasich has more room to change voters’ perceptions.”

But there is a Catch-22. The best way to make an impression on voters who don’t show up to town hall meetings in New Hampshire would be for Kasich to do well in one of the televised debates. But to qualify for the debates, he needs to get his poll numbers up first. With moderates coalescing around Jeb Bush and socially conservative or Tea Party voters having more than a handful of candidates to choose from, Kasich might never get his moment in the sun.

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