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Commentary: 20 Revelations About GOP Candidate John Kasich

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop on Aug. 12 in Derry, N.H. (Jim ColeAP)MoreCloseclosemore
Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop on Aug. 12 in Derry, N.H. (Jim ColeAP)

In the Republican flavor-of-the-month club, John Kasich is hot. Mark Halperin of Bloomberg News called him “the media's favorite candidate, like John McCain was.”

Kasich seems almost moderate, but if you look at his record, he’s actually “cute,” trying to have it both ways on many controversial issues.

Here are 20 revelations about the Ohio governor, in no particular order:

No. 1: Background. Governor in second term was raised Catholic in working-class suburb of Pittsburgh; now, he's not Catholic, he attends a parish of the Anglican Church of North America; he and second wife have twin daughters.

No. 2: He’s had Tea Party backing and worked for Fox. He enjoyed Tea Party support in 2010; he was a nine-term member of Congress; he briefly ran for president in 2000 but quit; he was a Fox News pundit and host.

No. 3: He took new Medicaid money but doesn’t support ACA. He’s one of few Republican governors to take the additional Medicaid dollars tied to the Affordable Care Act. But he’s adamantly opposed to ACA and would substitute his own plan.

No. 4: His preference for charter schools has led to the loss of one-half billion dollars for public schools, which educate 90 percent of Ohio students. Many charters perform there more poorly than public schools.

No. 5: He’s for immigration reform. Kinda. He’d consider eventual citizenship for the 11 to 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. But they must register and pay a fine for breaking the law.

No. 6: He’s with Donald Trump on ending birthright citizenship. He and six other GOP candidates oppose automatic U.S. citizenship for babies born in this country to any immigrant, legal or not. Birthright citizenship is enshrined in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

No. 7: He supports Common Core, but not for Ohio. He says he’s for the national education standards. But he says each Ohio school is free to choose it own curriculum, regardless of national requirements.

No. 8: He voted to ban assault weapons in 1994 but regrets it. At a Tea Party event in 2009 he said that the vote was wrong. And he scored an A- from the National Rifle Association in 2014.

No. 9: He attended a friend’s gay wedding, but opposes gay marriage. He told a debate audience that he attended the wedding of a gay friend. He didn’t say that he’s long been publicly opposed to same sex marriage.

No. 10: He’s not sure about climate change. In July he told NBC News humans affect climate, then quickly told Bloomberg News he wasn’t sure of climate science or how much humans contributed to change.

No. 11: He’s for and against fracking. He supported it in Ohio state parks and forests in 2011. Recently a spokesman said: “At this point, the governor doesn't support fracking in state parks. We reserve the right to revisit that.”

No. 12: His first cabinet was all white, something that hadn’t happened in Ohio in 58 years. (The state is 12.5 percent black, 3.4 percent Hispanic.) An African-American legislator had a heated exchange with him over lack of minorities in cabinet; he declared: “I'm not going to hire your people.” Spokesman later said “your people” meant Democrats.

No. 13: He’s for privatizing Social Security. In Congress he favored cutting Social Security benefits for baby boomers and privatizing the system through private investment accounts, often run by Wall Street concerns.

No. 14: He’s against prosecuting Wall Street. He ran the Columbus, Ohio, office of Lehman Brothers for seven years until the firm collapsed.  He believes the fault for the 2008 mortgage crisis lies with Congress, for allowing Wall Street to write too many sub-prime home loans. 

No. 15: He voted to impeach President Clinton. Four times. He proudly says he worked with President Clinton to reform welfare and balance the budget. But he then voted to impeach Clinton on all four indictments. 

No. 16. He backed W on Iraq. He supported President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. As candidate for president he now says he would not have taken the U.S. to war in Iraq.

No. 17: He signed an abortion bill that contains no exceptions for rape or incest. Due to various restrictions, while he has been governor, the number of places that perform safe, legal abortions in Ohio has fallen from 16 to eight. Ohio has 11.4 million people.

No. 18: He rivals Scott Walker in attacking public workers. He pushed Senate Bill 5 that limited the rights of teachers, firefighters, police, nurses and public workers. After he signed it into law in 2011, thousands of Ohioans protested, gathered 915,000 signatures, and got a referendum on the ballot to repeal the law. It was repealed overwhelmingly -- more people voted for repeal than for Kasich in that election.

No. 19: He’d send American ground troops to Syria and Iraq as part of a larger coalition to fight Islamic State militants.

No. 20; He’s often called “a jerk.”

The Washington Post: “Without prompting, nearly every Kasich friend or adviser interviewed for this article noted that his temperament is his greatest liability.” Famously volatile Sen. McCain once said of Kasich: “He has a hair-trigger temper.”

The National Journal noted last month that he met with several New Hampshire voters, who were interested in Kasich and wanted to spend some time with him. They “liked him less” after the in-person meeting.

A June 11 NBC report found he is known to be “brusque, confrontational and dismissive of others’ views, even fellow conservatives.”

The Weekly Standard’s executive editor Fred Barnes said that if Kasich wants to win the nomination for president, he will have to stop “acting somewhat like a jerk.”

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently ran a commentary by Brent Larkin, longtime Kasich watcher and editorial director, who asked, “Is John Kasich too big a jerk to be president?”

Dan Payne is a Democratic analyst for WBUR and a contributor to The Boston Globe.

Corrections: An earlier version of this post said Kasich backed the war on Iraq as a member of Congress. He left Congress in 2001. We also listed Kasich as Anglican; he attends a parish of the Anglican Church of North America. We regret the errors.

Related:

Dan Payne Twitter Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.

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