October 28, 2014


GOP gleeful over Democrats' midterm woes in Ohio (JULIE CARR SMYTH, 10/28/14, AP) 

Democrats appear poised to lose every statewide election in battleground Ohio this fall -- most of them badly. The prospect is fueling Republican arguments headed into the next presidential election that voter support in a key bellwether state telegraphs national approval for GOP policies.

The Republican Presidential Contender Everyone's Overlooking : Ohio Gov. John Kasich is serious about running for president, and he'd be a formidable candidate. (JOSH KRAUSHAAR, 1/29/14, National Journal)

[T]here's one candidate who isn't generating much buzz and whose résumé compares favorably with any of the top-tier candidates. He's a battleground-state governor who's looking in strong position to win a second term. He defeated one of the more popular Democratic governors in the country, who happened to be a major Clinton ally. He's from the Midwest, likely to be the critical region in the 2016 presidential election. He entered office as a prominent fiscal conservative but compromised on Medicaid expansion. And most important, Republican officials familiar with his thinking say he's seriously considering a presidential campaign.

Enter Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the swing-state executive who's currently polling at microscopic levels nationally but who could have an outsized impact on the 2016 race.

"The presidential nominee is likely to be a governor, and, frankly, Kasich is as well situated as anybody. This is a guy who can connect with a crowd, he can emote, he's got blue-collar roots, and he identifies with average folks. He's certainly no Romney," said former NRCC Chairman Tom Davis, who served with Kasich in Congress. "In my opinion, he's the total package. And I think he's interested."

By all accounts, Kasich shouldn't be considered a sleeper. As governor, he's presided over a Rust Belt renaissance, with the state's unemployment rate dropping from one of the highest in the country in 2009 (10.6 percent) to around the national average (7.2 percent) last month. In 2013, Kasich signed a sizable tax cut thanks to the state's newfound budget surplus. Kasich was among the first Republicans to tout the party's need to reach out to the disadvantaged, and he lived up to his rhetoric by passing prison-sentencing reform with support from African-American legislators.

He ran for president before in 2000, parlaying his role passing four balanced budgets with Bill Clinton as a main selling point of the campaign. In effect, he was Paul Ryan before Ryan was elected to Congress. But he barely made a dent in a year when George W. Bush secured early support from party leaders.

"Mitt Romney's biggest problem was the perception he didn't care--that's a Republican Achilles' heel almost built into the party," said former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer. "It would be constructive to have a candidate who could diminish that gap because they're cut from a different cloth, they have a proven track record of helping the poor and middle-class, and their policies show it. For people like John Kasich, he feels it as a social calling. That has the potential to be attractive so long as it's matched with conservative ideology."

Indeed, Kasich's governing message in Ohio sounds awfully similar to the "compassionate conservative" brand that Bush himself employed so successfully in 2000. Last August, Kasich told The Wall Street Journal: "I have a chance to show what it means to be successful economically, but also to have a compassionate side, a caring side, to help lift people up."

Posted by at October 28, 2014 7:13 PM

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