News broke this morning that the campaign team for Kasich, comfortably ahead in the polls, can’t agree on whether to tempt fate by putting their candidate on stage next to his opponent for a debate. After all, risking a verbal encounter that could help FitzGerald and hurt Kasich is probably not on the governor’s agenda if he wants a landslide victory. The failure to reach an internal consensus in camp Kasich to even be seen on stage with Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s Democratic challenger whose name he has yet to actually say in public, tells voters all they need to know about the Wizard of Westerville’s supersized ego and arrogance.
But with polls showing leads by some Republicans over their Democratic challengers, not all Republican statewide officeholders elected in 2010 are refusing to debate. In what may be the only state candidate debate this election season, candidates for auditor of state debated JobsOhio, charter schools and funding local governments, at the City Club of Cleveland, WOSU reported.
But others, including Gov. Kasich, are daring to let voters go to the polls without having the benefit of hearing candidates take each other on. Accepting offers to debate FitzGerald seems risky business, as it puts Ohio’s go-go CEO-style governor in a shooting gallery of sorts where FitzGerald, and maybe reporters selected to ask questions, can take careful aim and shoot Kasich right between the eyes. In these formats, the ever elusive Kasich won’t be able to just leave or ignore a question. His tried and true responses can include “I don’t pay attention” to these things or “I don’t respond to these questions.” Fourth grade responses like these provide him escape hatches from what would otherwise be contrived and laughable responses to legitimate questions.
Responding Tuesday to Team Kasich’s equivocation on accepting even one debate date, FitzGerald campaign press secretary Lauren Hitt released the following statement on Governor Kasich’s refusal to agree to debate.
“In late August, the Kasich campaign informed us that they were having difficulty coming to an internal consensus on how to handle debates. We agreed to give them time to settle their differences, but after two weeks passed they informed us that they had still not come to a decision. At that point it had been nearly two months since the negotiations first began, so we notified the Kasich campaign that we would agree to the debate format of their choice at a time and date of their choosing, but if they did not come to us with a decision by Sunday, September 14, we would have to assume they were refusing to debate all together. As of Sunday evening, the Kasich campaign claimed they had still not reached a consensus. With less than 50 days until the election, we feel we can reasonably assume that these delay tactics indicate Governor Kasich is unwilling to engage in a substantive debate about the issues affecting Ohioans.”
If the mighty Kasich doesn’t go to bat in even one debate this year, it would mark the first time in 30 years debates were not part of a gubernatorial campaign. Ed FitzGerald is behind the powerful Kasich in polling, in money raised, in third-parties ready toparticipate, and in positive coverage by Ohio media. To honor the six debate invitations FitzGerald has pitched Team Kasich, the former crime fighter has already accepted debate offers to be held in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Zanesville, and Sandusky through a format of those sponsors choosing. Additionally, FitzGerald said, he will hold roundtables in Youngstown, Dayton, Lima, Toledo, and Marietta, where he initially challenged Gov. Kasich to debates in late June.
John Kasich is the consummate performance politician. He really doesn’t like the press—because some of us can ask questions that make his head explode—and if he actually spoke truthfully, he doesn’t like the legislature either, because it’s just a big group of people who can say no to him, and if there’s one thing Mr. Kasich dislikes above all else, it’s not being able to act like a CEO of a private corporation who can do what he wants, when he wants. One can only wonder if he has a picture of Vladimir Putin on a wall somewhere.
Kasich needs to win by a large margin to get the mandate he so desperately needs to flesh out the false narrative that he’s a comeback governor. But FitzGerald, an attorney, could skewer Kasich big time in a live matchup. From history we know that John Kasich is extremely prone to political foot-in-mouth disease. Even the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is certain to endorse him again this year, said in their 2010 editorial endorsement of him, that he could “talk himself off a cliff.” The PD and other newspapers, especially the Columbus Dispatch, were for him in 2010 because they swallowed his talk of razzle dazzle in government hook, line and sinker. They slow but steady recovery under Strickland, following a tidal wave of job losses brought on by the Great Recession, not Strickland policies as Kasich would have you believe, was too boring for newspaper editorial boards who became mesmerized by the fast but erratic rabbit over the steady plodding tortoise.
If given the chance to debate, face to face, FitzGerald could tear Kasich’s carefully crafted but phony story of fixing a broken Ohio down brick by brick. Pointing to so many metrics of his failures would leave Kasich twisting in the wind before any TV or radio audience. And when John Kasich feels trapped, which can happen with almost any probing question, his tactic is to either play dumb (which might not involve all that much playing) or to dismiss the question, or to attack the question asker or the source behind the question.
Kasich is a hard right governor, he’s been in lock step with all Republican policies from his earliest days in the Ohio Senate to his final days in Congress, where he spent 18 years, mostly in the minority caucus but some in the majority when he rose to chair the House Budget Committee. John Kasich has never lost an election that this name was on the ballot. And it would be great fun to see FitzGerald nail Kasich to his own cross of thorns, preventing another glorious win for Ohio’s Dear Leader. But sleepy voters may not have that chance this year.
There is no law about debating, so Team Kasich’s obstinate refusal to engage in even one debate shows how fearful they are of FitzGerald or reporters hitting one bulls eye after another. Why risk a debate when you are assured of winning? It can only hurt you, and if you’re really running to be president, that’s not a good thing.
Readers, if you were FitzGerald or a reporter, what question would you want John Kasich to answer?