People from outside the Buckeye state ask the same question: Does Ohio Gov. John Kasich really have the name recognition nationally to win the presidency?
Our answer: No, he doesn’t have the national name recognition right now. That’s why his presidential bid should be taken seriously.
This is one of those times when being an unknown candidate early in the campaign can be a good thing, a la Bill Clinton in 1992. If you have a hard time putting your arms around that thought, just look at the two most popular names in the GOP cast of 16 hopefuls — Donald Trump and Jeb Bush. Then keep in mind that winning the presidency is all about capturing the votes of independents.
Can these two accomplish that? We think not.
While Trump has a double-digit lead over the nearest Republican candidate in the most recent Washington Post/ABC poll, his candidacy is more of a novelty in an otherwise politically boring summer. Independent voters are unlikely to choose as their next president a billionaire who has never stepped into a dollar store or has any idea what a gallon of milk or a bottle of beer costs.
Bush, meanwhile, is a likeable guy and a good-hearted politician from a politically savvy family. That could get him the GOP nomination; however, chances of a Bush III presidency are remote.
We think voters are looking for somebody new from both Republicans and Democrats. In that regard, Kasich’s résumé is seemingly tailor-made for Republicans wishing to break from the status quo. He’s a moderate-to-conservative candidate who could win over enough independent voters to capture the presidency.
Kasich is the son of a mailman, growing up on the outskirts of Pittsburgh’s steel country. That blue-collar upbringing has made an impact on his normally conservative ideology to the point he disregarded Ohio’s Republican-controlled legislature and accepted Medicaid expansion. He said his decision was about “compassionate conservatism,” explaining that without the money, he could not find funding for those in need — the mentally ill, the drug addicted and the poor.
“I cannot disregard people who need our help the most. It’s unconscionable. I won’t do it,” he said in a stop at The Lima News last fall.
Kasich often invokes comments about his faith when explaining his decision-making, something that plays well in a party where one’s religious convictions are important. He’ll tell you his faith got him through one of the most trying times of his life, when in 1987, both of his parents were killed by a drunken driver. It’s also been a cornerstone of his raising two teenage daughters.
At age 63, he’s neither too old nor too young to be president, and he has some Reaganesque qualities. He’s sharp with the wit and knows how to work the camera, given his years as a political analyst on Fox television. And like the patron saint of the Republican Party, he’s a budget hawk who’s not afraid to speak his mind.
His bluntness and candor have been a gift and a curse. In the middle of a meeting, Kasich once scolded a BP employee, asking if the employee knew why oil and gas companies have a bad reputation? “Because they deserve it,” Kasich shouted.
As he steps in the glare of the national spotlight, Kasich can point to his successful tenure in both the public and private sectors. Elected to the U.S. House at just 30 years old, after having become the youngest state senator in Ohio history, Kasich developed a reputation as a budget and deficit hawk in Washington, D.C., serving as House Budget Committee chairman, where he was successful in working with Clinton to balance the federal budget for the first time since 1969. He was also a member of the House Armed Services Committee, giving him an insight into the military many other candidates lack.
The Ohio governor is a formidable political talent with a solidly conservative record. So don’t be surprised if he takes off in the polls.
Jim Krumel is the editor of the Lima News, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org