Governor John Kasich of Ohio is certainly a first tier
presidential candidate in terms of his experience, his
intelligence and the strategic electoral importance of his
home state. The question yet to be answered: Is he is a
first tier campaigner?
I think we are about to receive that answer from some new
polls in early and key primary states. Governor Kasich was
the last major Republican contender to formally enter the
contest, but he performed well in the first debate in Cleveland,
and many observers even called him the biggest winner of this
initial confrontation of the large number of GOP hopefuls.
At that debate, of course, much of the attention was on
businessman Donald Trump whose neo-nationalism populist
message has dominated the polls since, and drawn large crowds
wherever the New York billionaire has appeared.
Republican strategists have simultaneously been searching for
an ideal “anti-Trump” GOP candidate to stem this phenomenon,
and give the conservative party a more likely successful ticket in
November when the key electorate will be the huge number of
independent-centrist voters who do not affiliate with either major
The candidacy of early frontrunner, former Florida Governor Jeb
Bush, has been floundering since the debates in which he did not
stand out. His caution and inability to project a sympathetic
personality has left his campaign, at least temporarily, in the
doldrums despite his high name recognition and the huge amount
of campaign funds he has raised.
Likewise in at least temporary decline is Governor Scott Walker
of Wisconsin who after emerging as a first tier candidate in Iowa
earlier this year, has stalled in the polls and failed so far to project
his personality into his campaign. Governor Walker needs to win
the Iowa caucus where he has been leading to remain in the first
Some have thought that Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey,
with his obvious communication skills and charisma, would be the
“anti-Trump” figure to take the billionaire on, and re-emerge as a
first tier candidate, but so far this has not happened. Senator Marco
Rubio of Florida is another potential first tier candidate who might
successfully replace Mr. Trump at the top of the polls. Young and
charismatic, his campaign has yet to catch on. Business executive
Carly Fiorina impressed many with her performance at the “second
tier” debate in Cleveland, and with her impressive speaking style.
Her poll numbers have risen, but so far she has been more the
“anti-Hillary” candidate, and has yet to notably confront Mr. Trump.
All of this leaves Governor Kasich with an extraordinary opportunity.
He not only served in the U.S. house for several terms, but rose to
become one of its top experts on economic policy, leading his caucus
to significant achievements in balancing the budget, curbing spending
and raising fiscal responsibility. After his congressional career, he
returned to Ohio to become its governor where he became one of the
GOP statehouse leaders of reform during the Washington miasma
of the past Obama administration years. In 2014, despite Ohio being
considered a contested battleground state, he won a landslide victory
in his re-election as governor. With Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Iowa,
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin being among the key states in the 2016
presidential election, Kasich’s Buckeye State could deliver some
much needed electoral votes to the GOP ticket.
Unlike his rivals, Governor Bush and Governor Walker, Governor
Kasich has shown the skill to project his personality into the campaign,
including a certain informed candor that might measure well against
the bull-in-the-china-shop demeanor of Mr. Trump.
The next several weeks, leading up to and including the next televised
GOP debate, could be significant in the race for the Republican
nomination. John Kasich could be on the verge of breaking out into
the open to become a man to beat.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.