If you have any doubt as to the disarray in the Kasich campaign, just consider these two video clips.
Here’s the message the Kasich campaign planned on ending the week with:
This was the message: positive, upbeat, talking about a “New Day, a New Way.” Then that same day we get this instead:
Eight minutes of dripping partisan bile, with one reckless laughably ridiculous and baseless allegation after another. National and state news stories about Kasich speaking to under booked venues with flashes of anger and overly charged partisan rancor.
What happened? Well, one thing we know that happened is a new Ohio Poll came out showing that Ohioans overwhelming believe Ted Strickland is honest and trustworthy and that Ted Strickland emphasizes with them. We know that the Kasich campaign got a new update on their tracking. We know that Real Clear Politics shows that Kasich’s aggregate lead went from 5.4 points on Sunday to 2.7 yesterday. (This is what Jon Keeling describes as Strickland being “stuck.”)
And we know that like tectonic plates, the pressure has been building within the Kasich campaign for some time. Already the finger pointing and the outright civil war is brewing in Kasich-Taylor headquarters resulting in a disjointed communication strategy the final week of the campaign. Beth Hansen may still hold the title of campaign manager, but she’s clearly lost all control over the campaign. Because the campaign can’t figure out–what happened?
What happened is just as Tim said earlier today, the campaign listened to and believed Jon Keeling, a Kasich cultist who has no business making campaign predictions about Ohio from Virginia. He said it was impossible for the Strickland campaign to both bring Strickland’s numbers up while bring Kasich’s down. But that’s precisely what we’ve seen in all public polling in the race since August. He said, even as recently as last week, that it was impossible to believe that Strickland could make a dent on Kasich’s roughly twenty point lead with Independents, and yet, that’s what all public polling in the race since August has shown occurred.
Like any cult, the campaign had drank their own KoolAid and now realize the folly of it all with no antidote at the ready. In other words, it’s every staffer for themselves to avoid the blame of what, even when they were “ahead,” has been widely described by national political observers as a “mediocre” campaign.
Now, Communication Director Scott Milburn has the Kasich campaign mimicking an actual punchline by not taking questions:
Milburn isn’t just doing it ritualistically because Kasich started to take the lead when he only made his pronouncements from the confines of that white YouTube room. The fact of the matter is that with the exception of Press Secretary Rob Nichols (of “Chicken Shack” fame), nobody has gotten the campaign more off message than when John Kasich has talked to the press. The campaign lost an entire week not able to talk about the economy because of Kasich clumsy announcement that he would “scrap” Governor Strickland’s “evidence-based” model. They then lost another week debating alternative energy.
Neither were issues favorable to the campaign, and they created weeks in which Kasich looked like a partisan naysayer while Strickland could brandish a visionary label. Mary Taylor has been criticized as “not ready for prime time,” but she’s shown more discipline than Kasich has to stay on message, in reality.
Rob Nichols, reportedly, has been castigated to no other role than to have a change of pants for Scott Milburn if he has to realize that yet again he was on the losing end of a campaign against Ted Strickland like Milburn was in 1996. And to maybe hit “send” on the mass e-mail Election Night statement for the Kasich campaign and turn out the lights when he leaves.
But Milburn’s own effort to keep Kasich out of the media in order to keep Kasich “on message” is being defeated from within.
When I watched Kasich’s speech in the barn, it reminded me of the misguided thought of, oh say, putting Kasich on camera to film an ad to respond to Lehman Brothers:
Only the Kasich cultists in the campaign think these were swell ideas to “Let Kasich Be Kasich.” For all year, including throughout the debates, Beth Hansen has done what she can to craft a public image that is the opposite of what everyone who know Kasich knows he is. It’s that thing you poop out of.
Kasich loyalists like former congressional/Lehman Brothers staffer Jai Chabria, Bob Klaffky, and former congressional chief-of-staff/OSU staffer Don Thibaut have gotten Kasich’s ear and said it’s time to take a new direction. Nationalize the election. That must be why Portman is doing so much better against Fisher with the same message, they argue! (It’s not.)
Where does that leave the Kasich-Taylor campaign? His campaign is having a crisis of confidence, leaving his campaign manager unable to right the ship to any extent she can in the final days of the campaign because the “Kasich Boys Club” has decided that her leadership is why the campaign is now in a dogfight and her efforts to prevent Kasich from being himself has hurt them. So while the cultist unleashed an unfiltered Kasich to the public, Scott Milburn pulls the campaign into a bunker mentality filled with people more preoccupied with finger pointing and avoid the blame for the situation than doing what is necessary to fix it.
An Ohio Republican Party that was nationally crying over a lack of RNC money for GOTV is, surprisingly, using what little money it has to instead air a ridiculous ad attacking Strickland and Obama to try to salvage the race on their own.
And despite it all, Jon Keeling is still proclaiming that with a ten-point advantage in early votes, only two points down in the aggregate polling average, and all this disarray, Ted Strickland would rather be in John Kasich’s shoes? Ha!
John Kasich began this week talking about choosing between two paths. He chose the low road.