I never thought I’d write two blog posts on John Kasich as a presidential contender in my RedState career but now I find myself writing two such posts in two days.
Let’s start with the basics. Kasich’s polling average is about 4%. This is basically unchanged from his average before the debates. In a 17-person field his share should be about 6% so even in this crowd he is under-performing. Second, the only people who stand to lose votes to Kasich are Jeb Bush, [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ], and Chris Christie. All other candidate’s voters have very logical homes if their first choice fall out. Third, Kasich’s fundraising kung-fu is weak and there is a greater chance that he will drop out and endorse Bush than vice versa. Even so, there are those who insist that Kasich, like Jon Huntsman, is the GOP’s savior.
Via that arbiter of GOP presidential choices, the New York Times, John Kasich’s Appeal to Moderates Gains Traction in New Hampshire
Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio unabashedly promotes his expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, shows little appetite for relitigating culture-war battles like same-sex marriage and offers not much more than a shrug when asked about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s turning over her email server to the F.B.I.
“I’m really more concerned about letting people know who I am, rather than that much about Hillary,” he said after a town hall-style meeting Tuesday night, the political equivalent of letting a batting practice strike go by without a swing.
Why is Kasich doing well in New Hampshire? Because the New Hampshire GOP electorate doesn’t look like the GOP electorate in virtually any other state:
Mr. Kasich’s potential here is a product of New Hampshire’s unusual nature. While the moderate wing of the Republican Party is on the verge of extinction in much of the country, it endures in a state that is resolutely anti-tax but more secular than much of the South and Midwest. Further, unaffiliated voters in New Hampshire can participate in either party’s presidential primary, a tradition that in the past has elevated unorthodox Republicans such as [mc_name name=’Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000303′ ] to success.
In 2012, 48 percent of voters in the Republican primary called themselves moderate or liberal. Even in 2008, when they could have chosen to vote in the hard-fought Democratic primary instead, 45 percent of Republican voters described themselves as moderates or liberals.
“We’re a lot squishier than most states,” said Charlie Arlinghaus, a not-so-squishy Republican activist who heads a conservative public policy group in Concord. “And I think that’s why Kasich makes a lot of sense here, in a way he doesn’t in Iowa.”
Kasich is following the tried and true strategy that his campaign manager, Democrat political operative John Weaver, tested with Jon Huntsman. What you do is try to suck cash out of the GOP establishment donors while belittling the people who show up to vote in GOP primaries. This comes from National Review which, now that Mitt Romney isn’t running seems to be a bit adrift in trying to find an establishment candidate:
Kasich’s recent hiring of Fred Davis and John Weaver suggests he is looking at being the moderate’s choice. These men worked for John McCain’s winning 2008 campaign, which the Arizona Senator prevailed by winning large margins among moderates and running even with Romney among establishment conservatives in the early races. They also worked on Jon Huntsman’s failed 2012 effort, which also tried to put together a center-left coalition focused on wining New Hampshire. This, combined with Kasich’s very vocal support of Medicaid expansion and other increased government support for poor people, points to a race that will run against the party’s rightward tide.
Republican moderates like candidates with strong personalities, people who vocally stand up for what they believe and run counter to the cut-government mantra favored on the right. They like balanced budgets over tax cuts (although they don’t mind those); they care more about keeping programs working than about cutting or eliminating them; they care a lot more about using government to empower the average person than they do about shrinking it to help the exceptional one do better. Kasich’s Ohio record passes each of these litmus tests. He’s expanded government support for the poor while keeping budgets balanced and cutting taxes for everyone, and he’s not shy about telling people that he’s doing something morally right.
Here you see the establishment siren song of appealing to moderates that we hear in each election. This is an argument I really don’t understand because the GOP is not “moderate.” The Democrats will run one of three or four left wing geriatric kleptocrats. So moderates can either vote for one or the other… or, my preference, stay the hell home and stop bothering us.
Jim Geraghty, also writing in NRO, points out that Kasich’s strategy is calculated to win Democrat press plaudits but not elections:
Kasich’s campaign is populated with senior staffers who previously worked for former Utah governor Jon Huntsman — another Republican governor who lectured the rest of his party about conservative positions he deemed extreme and who focused his campaign on New Hampshire. Weaver, the Kasich campaign’s top strategist, and Fred Davis, its ad man, are both alumni of Huntsman’s failed 2012 presidential bid. Before that, they both worked for John McCain, another maverick Republican with a willingness to criticize conservatives who focused his campaigns on the Granite State.
The McCain campaign of 2008 counts as a win for the Weaver-Davis approach in primaries, but Huntsman’s plaudits from non-conservative media proved useless among Republican primary voters in 2012. The Utah governor garnered rave reviews from Mark Shields, Joe Klein, Andrew Sullivan, James Fallows, Time’s Michael Scherer, and Jacob Weisberg. But he peaked with a third-place finish in New Hampshire, finishing no better than seventh in any other state. He ended up winning exactly one of the 2,286 Republican delegates in the cycle.
One of the key questions Kasich faces is how many GOP primary voters will support a candidate who criticizes other Republicans from the center, as opposed to the right.
Kasich is also a big favorite with the left because his staff is so much in favor of homosexual marriage that they might as well get one. His nomination would assure that religious freedom would be permanently trampled and religious practice limited by law to a few hours a week. For instance, when Megyn Kelly wasn’t preening during the GOP debate, she took the time to ask Kasich this question: “if you had a son or daughter who was gay or lesbian, how would you explain to them your opposition to same-sex marriage?”
Coincidence that he was asked this question? Doubtful.
Dennis Saffran, writing in The Federalist, says:
The biggest concern with Kasich, though, is not his fingers-crossed-behind-his-back failure to just come out and say he supports gay marriage. It’s his complete dismissal of the potential threat to religious and other first amendment freedoms that all four dissenting justices warned of in Obergefell (including Chief Justice John Roberts, who had just upheld Obamacare the day before and so can hardly be written off as a rightwing yahoo). He is the only GOP candidate to go out of his way to downplay this threat,saying “let’s not get carried away.” At a news conference he gave perfunctory lip service to his “disappointment” with the ruling, but when a reporter asked about its impact on “a photographer refusing to work a same-sex wedding,” he curtly replied “let’s not create problems where there frankly is (sic) none.” Afterwards, he quickly turned away from her in the impatient way a politician does when someone has just said something particularly inane.
Kasich is trying to run as an outsider, as he says in the NY Times:
Mr. Kasich leaves little doubt that it is this constituency he is after. He is focusing his campaign chiefly on New Hampshire and infusing his speeches with lines aimed at independents: “The Republican Party, while it’s my vehicle, it has never been my master and never will be,” he said Tuesday night at a forum in Peterborough.
He is. Just not the way he wants you to believe. Like Huntsman, and like McCain before him, he thinks he can win the nomination by cobbling together country club Republicans, unaffiliated moderates, and Democrats bored by the coronation of Hillary Clinton. What he is either too stupid to realize, or too consumed by ego to contemplate, is that coalition will not win a general election because it is dependent upon Clinton-inclined voters.
This is why he is being touted. He is the candidate best suited to sow discord in the GOP and turn a comfortable GOP wind into a destructive tsunami.