John Kasich’s presidential primary challenges

John Kasich’s presidential primary challenges

IMG_1705On paper, John Kasich is the presidential candidate Republicans have been waiting on for years.

The Ohio governor represents an important swing state. As a member of Congress, he chaired the House Budget Committee, where he was considered the architect of the deal that balanced the federal budget. And he was instrumental in the major welfare reform legislation of the 1990s.

He shies away from talking too much about social issues, the Republicans’ Achilles Heel. He even polls well in the general — the only Republican topping Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton. 

Yet, he’s struggled to matter in the race. His only primary victory so far has been his home state and he has relatively few delegates. In fact, he still hasn’t surpassed Marco Rubio’s delegate count, even though the Florida Senator has been out of the race since mid March.

However, recent polling in California, where 172 delegates are up for grabs, shows Kasich with 20 percent of support (just behind Texas Senator Ted Cruz, but way behind business tycoon Donald Trump). The overall goal, with an outright win out of reach, is to push the nomination to an open, national GOP convention this summer.

“The only adult in the room”

Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes offered the same praise that Kasich has drawn throughout the contest, that Kasich is “the only adult in the room.”

“Gov. Kasich is ready to be president on Day One,” Mayes said while introducing Kasich at the CAGOP convention Friday night. “He can unite the party and win the White House. Republicans, he is our best choice.”

Does he unite the party?

Electability matters to voters, but the supporters of every candidate believe their guy or gal is electable. 

Kasich’s biggest knock is his acceptance of the Medicaid expansion offered through Obamacare, which Republican governors refused largely rejected.

“‘Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small,'” Kasich said to an Ohio legislator at the time who was making an anti-government expansion argument. “‘But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.’ ”

However, that decision has haunted him, said Republican strategist Rob Stuzman, who is part of an effort to stop Trump from winning the nomination by trying to get either Kasich or Cruz over the top.

“The knock on him throughout the race are the things he’s down in Ohio in expanding the size government that have held him back from a lot of conservative support that he probably would have had earlier in his career,” Stutzman said. 

Heidi Leupp, from Hillsborough, said she supports Kasich because of both his executive and legislative experience. She sees a winner, someone who polls well against the likely Democratic nominee, but is also popular in his own state

“Although he’s an outsider now, he does know how Washington works,” Leupp said. 

In a contentious primary season that’s been dominated by “mud-slinging,” Kasich has stayed above the fray, which Leupp finds attractive. But, she concedes, that both limits the amount of media attention he receives and differs from the tone of much of the electorate. 

“He doesn’t call people names, he doesn’t get into the mud, and because of that, he might not get the media exposure the mud-slingers get,” Leupp said. “But for the thoughtful voter, who looks at issues and looks at experience and looks at electability — which might be the most important thing — he is the perfect candidate.”


To reporters on Friday, Kasich admitted that “it isn’t working out right now,” but pointed to a recent string of second-place finishes as dramatic improvement. 

“I was invisible until about eight weeks ago,” Kasich said. He added he believed people ultimately want to be positive, unified and feel good about future. “That’s why I win in the general — it’s starting to resonate.”

Even when reporters tried to trip him up with questions on abortion, Kasich defended his pro-life position and record while saying “you have to respect people who don’t agree with you on this issue.”

“I don’t intend to spend a lot of time focusing on (social issues),” Kasich said. “I intend to talk about what I think is the greatest crisis we have today, which is the lack of economic growth.”

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