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Topic: John Kasich

Has John Kasich Been Trumped?

Ohio Governor John Kasich entered the presidential race today with a loaded resume and a strategy aimed at getting him onto the first tier debate stage on Fox News next month in Cleveland. Kasich’s credentials as a veteran House member, Fox News host, and a successful governor ought to make him a serious contender for 2016. And his decision to wait until only a couple of weeks before the August 6th debate before officially announcing his entry into the race ought to ensure that an announcement bump in the polls will help him make the cut. That may yet happen and Kasich — the 16th and probably the last GOP candidate to declare — could come from out of nowhere and have chance to win next year. But the resume and the timing don’t appear to be having the impact he hoped for. Rather than following in the footsteps of his idol Ronald Reagan as the leader of the conservative movement, Kasich enters the race being seen by much of his party’s base as the second coming of Jon Huntsman, whose disastrous 2012 presidential run is a model of everything a Republican shouldn’t do. And rather than benefit from his timing, Kasich’s announcement lands smack in the middle of the Donald Trump media frenzy meaning that, unlike other candidates, he may not benefit much from the late start.

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Ohio Governor John Kasich entered the presidential race today with a loaded resume and a strategy aimed at getting him onto the first tier debate stage on Fox News next month in Cleveland. Kasich’s credentials as a veteran House member, Fox News host, and a successful governor ought to make him a serious contender for 2016. And his decision to wait until only a couple of weeks before the August 6th debate before officially announcing his entry into the race ought to ensure that an announcement bump in the polls will help him make the cut. That may yet happen and Kasich — the 16th and probably the last GOP candidate to declare — could come from out of nowhere and have chance to win next year. But the resume and the timing don’t appear to be having the impact he hoped for. Rather than following in the footsteps of his idol Ronald Reagan as the leader of the conservative movement, Kasich enters the race being seen by much of his party’s base as the second coming of Jon Huntsman, whose disastrous 2012 presidential run is a model of everything a Republican shouldn’t do. And rather than benefit from his timing, Kasich’s announcement lands smack in the middle of the Donald Trump media frenzy meaning that, unlike other candidates, he may not benefit much from the late start.

Given Kasich’s strong conservative credentials dating back to his earlier support for Reagan and his impressive record in the House, any comparison to a man like Huntsman that served in the Obama administration and then ran against the GOP base seems deeply unfair. But the analogy fits and not only because he seems to have hired many of the same consultants that guided the former Utah governor’s fiasco of a campaign. Kasich’s stands on common core and Medicare expansion, as well as his willingness to challenge the base on social justice issues, has given him the aura of a Jeb Bush-lite. That positions him to compete against both Bush and Chris Christie for moderate Republican voters but without the advantage of spending the last several months out on the campaign trail trying to establish his candidacy.

The Huntsman example is instructive for more than just Kasich. In both 2008 and 2012, Republicans nominated moderates rather than conservatives. But in neither of those cases did either John McCain or Mitt Romney run against the party base. No matter how many right-wingers are competing for the loyalty of the Tea Party and seemingly leaving an opening for a moderate to win, antagonizing those who make up the backbone of your party is a formula for disaster, not victory.

But the biggest problem at the moment for Kasich is the way the timing of his announcement has been Trumped by the media’s Donald obsession. Throughout the spring, each announcement has given each candidate a bump in the polls though some have been bigger than others. But even a minor boost in the polls would be a lifesaver for Kasich if it enabled him to break into the top ten and thus ensure his place on the main stage at the Fox debate. Kasich currently ranks 11th in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. If that doesn’t change, he’s going to be left on the sidelines on August 6th along with Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.

But it’s not clear that with arguments about Trump dominating the news that Kasich will get much attention. Nor, to be fair to the media, is it likely that the Ohio governor’s lengthy and rambling announcement speech likely to generate much enthusiasm among the voting public the way the speeches from Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker did. In a weaker field that might not matter, but our first impression of Kasich was of man who couldn’t match his competition in terms of his ability to speak about his vision for the country or the rationale for his candidacy.

There may have been a rationale for a John Kasich candidacy but his decision to play the moderate rather than compete for conservative votes and his collision with the Trump juggernaut may reproduce the same results a far less worthy candidate like Huntsman obtained. Waiting until July may have seemed smart in the spring, but it turned out to be a serious mistake that will lengthen the odds against him.

 

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