August 16, 2015


John Kasich's Moment (David Shribman, August 16, 2015, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

[T]the Ohio governor, suddenly in double digits here and running third in the 17-candidate pack -- only a point behind former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida in the Boston Herald/​Franklin Pierce University Poll released only days ago -- is having his, and his campaign staff knows that the goal for the next few weeks must be to transform an ephemeral moment into a formidable movement.

The raw materials of that effort filled the chairs in the hall, just off Broadway with its yarn shop, its music store and its breakfast-forever diners. In baseball caps and T-shirts, holding fat handbags and slender handbills, they filed in and signed on, the freshly minted crusaders-for-Kasich. One man, an elected official from a neighboring town, was in shorts that showed off the state's "Live Free Or Die" motto stitched into his black socks. He's leaning toward Mr. Kasich, too.

To this crowd, Mr. Kasich delivered his unscripted, deeply personal performance, touching, as he did in his congressional and gubernatorial campaigns in Ohio, on his childhood in McKees Rocks and on the lessons he learned from the hard work of his father, who he said "carried mail on his back." He married these biographical bursts with calls for deficit-reduction progress, entitlement fairness and foreign-policy toughness -- a political cocktail swirled with a swizzle-stick of political independence.

"The Republican Party is my vehicle and not my master," he said, which would be an unusual riposte for a GOP primary but for the fact that Independents can vote here and very likely will hold the margin of victory in the Feb. 9 balloting. "I'm in politics to bring about improvement in society."

Standing in the crowd were two pros whose allegiance was sought by a dozen Republican candidates.

One, former Sen. John E. Sununu, is part of a family that has been elected to the state House, the governor's office, the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and, most recently, the New Hampshire Executive Council, an odd institution that, consistent with the Sununu ethos, is a check on political power. He is leading the campaign effort here.

The other, Thomas D. Rath, is a veteran of, among others, the campaigns of Bob Dole, Lamar Alexander, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.

The base of an isosceles triangle of New Hampshire attorneys general that includes his two direct predecessors, future Sen. Warren Rudman and future Supreme Court justice David Souter, Mr. Rath, who as a Dartmouth student helped organize New Hampshire for Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1964, is regarded as perhaps the state's premier political strategist.

His decision to be Mr. Kasich's state co-chair was big enough news that three television networks rushed stories onto the web.

These men will run Mr. Kasich's campaign as if he's running for the state Senate, which he did before he turned 30. That is congruent with the nature of presidential politics here, where voters shop for candidates to support, trying them like the samples at Costco before deciding which is to their taste. That's what brought former Sen. Gordon Humphrey, a longtime Kasich admirer, to Derry. He wasn't the only shopper here.

"I'm here to see what he's like," said Larry Jordan, a retired Marine. Added Sunne Coleman, a part-time accountant: "I'm evaluating many of these people but I like his fairness, his ability to listen, his vision."

...though the Ohio governor would be more useful as Chief-of-Staff--for the very reasons he'd be a lousy president--not that there's any reason you couldn't combine the two.

Posted by at August 16, 2015 8:32 AM

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