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He's The Class Act Of The GOP Field, But Does John Kasich Stand A Chance?

In this photo taken Jan. 20, 2016, Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich smiles as he answers a question during an interview on his campaign bus in Bow, N.H. (Charles Krupa/AP)
In this photo taken Jan. 20, 2016, Republican presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich smiles as he answers a question during an interview on his campaign bus in Bow, N.H. (Charles Krupa/AP)
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“Experienced executive, 63, seeking to advance to higher position. Twenty-seven years’ experience, most recently as CEO of multibillion-dollar enterprise. Contract renewed two years ago with high grades from employer.”

This might be a killer resume in the business world, but for John Kasich, it makes him sound, well, really boring.

In this year’s Republican presidential primary, starring a xenophobe without elective experience and a blowhard Texan whose only talent — paralyzing government — could be delegated to a snowstorm, Ohio Gov. Kasich’s potential bumper stickers aren’t likely to get ‘em manning the ramparts. “Moderate, level-headed, middle-aged white guy for president”?

In this year’s Republican presidential primary ... Ohio Gov. Kasich’s potential bumper stickers aren’t likely to get ‘em manning the ramparts. 'Moderate, level-headed, middle-aged white guy for president'?

Kasich is the Republican candidate of New England’s center-left editorialists -- The Boston Globe and Concord Monitor (New Hampshire’s capital city paper) have endorsed him. While that can be the kiss of death, some Granite State polling places him second behind Donald Trump in that lead-off primary. There’s a compelling argument that Kasich is the class act of the GOP field, including among his fellow “establishment” candidates.

Unlike fellow Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Kasich has avoided anything like Bridgegate, and that was just the tip of Christie’s underwhelming record. Jeb Bush is competent and admirably willing to battle his base over immigration reform and the Common Core educational standards, but he campaigns on the twin fantasies of being able to generate 4 percent annual economic growth and his personal responsibility for Florida’s prosperity under his governorship. (That owed to a housing bubble that didn’t last.) Marco Rubio excites as our first potential Latino president. But we still have the niggling details of a fuzzy-math tax cut, wrongheaded opposition to the Dodd-Frank financial reforms and empty suit on foreign affairs.

The case for Kasich doesn’t rely just on negatives, however. As a congressman, he bucked the National Rifle Association to support the 1994 semi-automatic assault weapons ban and pushed for a balanced budget during the booming 1990s, precisely the situation under which the government should balance its books. As governor, he expanded Medicaid, the health program for the poor, under Obamacare. He supports Common Core and acknowledges human-made climate change. He joins Bush in arguing the inhumanity, and impossibility, of deporting all immigrants who are here illegally. And he bravely defies popular ignorance by defending bank bailouts during the financial collapse as a necessary evil.

The governor carries some of these principles too far — or not far enough. He yearns to enshrine budget-balancing in the Constitution. He supports waivers in case of an economic crisis, but it’s tough to imagine, say, the current Congress shedding that straitjacket even during the Great Recession. Meanwhile, Kasich’s own tax-cut plan, rather than prudently simplifying the code, is best defended as less deficit-inducing than other Republicans.’

[Kasich]has managed a state, acquired the knowledge that comes from a long congressional stint, and is prudent with a dollar while recognizing government’s role in helping the poor.

The Ohioan joins the mindless stampede among Republicans (and including Bernie Sanders) to repeal Obamacare, heedless not only of the political implausibility of Congress coming up with a replacement after that bruising fight, but the economic impossibility of crafting any workable, private system without Obamacare’s mandates. And he now argues the assault weapons ban achieved nothing and proudly pledges allegiance to the Second Amendment. That’s hardly encouraging if you’re looking for some reasonable gun regulations going forward. Aside from clean-coal technology, he hasn’t endorsed a plan to combat climate change, fretting more about possible job losses than saving the planet (as if the two can’t be reconciled).

For all these shortcomings, we’re left with a Republican who has managed a state, acquired the knowledge that comes from a long congressional stint, and is prudent with a dollar while recognizing government’s role in helping the poor. Whether that will be enough come November, should Kasich make it to November (evangelical and libertarian Republicans in other states aren’t like their New Hampshire brethren), it looks pretty good in this winter of the GOP’s discontent.

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Rich Barlow Cognoscenti contributor
Rich Barlow writes for BU Today, Boston University's news website.

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