The question asked Tuesday by many Washington watchers who continue to be entertained as one Republican after another enters the race for the White House was, “Why not John Kasich?”
Brad Friedman, the host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show on all things political, including a strong focus on green energy news, pondered why Kasich would run, and whether he offers anything different than the other 15 candidates who have left the shadows to come into the light of presidential politics?
Simple answer: Because Kasich can. The GOP field is fluid, and the money for aspiring candidates like Mr. Kasich is there for the asking, and he and his team are asking and getting. His most recent haul claimed more than $11 million, which is puny compared to the $100 million-plus Jeb! Bush has raised, but still plenty for his handlers, advisers and others, who cash-in one way or another on the coattails of the twice-elected governor whose quest is to wield presidential powers.
There may be more than 50 reasons to leave your lover, or governor as the case may be, but detailing them here is way to academic for one post. Let’s just limit our lesson today to how Gov. Kasich would be any different than Mitt Romney in 2012?
Kasich On Romney: “He’s Terrible!”
Simple answer: Kasich’s a virtual clone of the venture capitalist and his losing 2012 campaign. Romney won Ohio, but he barely beat Rick Santorum who is in the GOP field again. The AP reports that Gov. Kasich will become the latest Republican presidential candidate to be invited for a private meeting with Mitt Romney, at the former Bain Capital leader’s lakeside vacation home in New Hampshire. Mr. Kasich’s spokesman, Chris Schrimpf, said Romney extended the invitation after learning that Kasich would be campaigning near his home, the AP reported.
Following his announcement Tuesday at his alma mater, The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio’s go-go CEO governor jetted to New Hampshire, where his latest TV ad, “Us,” is airing. He needs desperately to boost his flagging national poll ratings enough to earn him a spot on stage as one of the top ten GOP candidates Fox News will feature in its televised debate in Cleveland on August 6.
Kasich is now the third Republican presidential contender to spend private time this month with Romney, reports noted, which makes the encounter all the more interesting given Gov. Kasich reluctance to back the former governor of Massachusetts in 2012. Kasich, one political book, Double Down: Game Change 2012, noted, was quoted calling Mr. Romney a “terrible” choice. Romney, who survived the grueling primary season only to lose the General Election to President Barack Obama, has already dined with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose political “bromance” with Kasich is on record, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who won the endorsement of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. Romney did not say whether he will endorse a candidate in the race, so he may reflect back on Gov. Kasich’s treatment of him as a candidate then and how the governor, now a candidate himself, wants to be treated. Kasich was famous for showing up at Romney rallies, then talking about himself and his record in Ohio instead of Romney’s experience and achievements.
How, exactly, would a Kasich campaign differ from Romney’s losing campaign from 2012? Aside from different names and logos, the substantive policy differences are few and far between, so minimal as to be insignificant.
Both want lower taxes for individuals and business. Romney famously said corporations are people, and Kasich, who likes private over public, no doubt agrees. Kasich has already promised lower taxes on business as one of his first acts as president.
Romney wanted to double defense spending, so Gov. Kasich is beating the drum to bulk of the U.S Navy.
Romney, who made his fortune on just a couple big deals, refused to disclose his tax returns last presidential cycle, admitting at one point that his tax rate was less than 15 percent. John Kasich has managed, with the help of a compliant press, to keep his tax returns under wraps, with the one exception, in 2010, when he let selected reporters peer for 30 minutes at then, sans anything more than pencil and paper. Expect Mr. Kasich to stonewall releasing his financials, even though Jeb! Bush has promised to release 33 years of his. The governor has concealed the degree to which he’s feathered his nest over nearly 40 years as a performance politician.
Romney campaigned heavily against the Affordable Health Care Act, and Kasich has declared it flawed, but not enough to not accept more than $2.5 billion in federal dollars to expand Medicaid in Ohio to those too poor to pay for health coverage.
Romney and Kasich rained on federal spending, from the president’s stimulus package to bailing out Detroit automakers to infrastructure, which he panned when the funds were federal but crows about when they come from leveraging state assets, a strategy he’s pursued more than once.
Unfortunately for Gov. Kasich, the gauzy feel-good picture he tried to paint Tuesday, of a state saved by him from more bad times, shatters when looked at with clear-view lens.
There are many more children living below the poverty line today in Ohio. A new Kids Count report says about 100,000 more meet the standards now than in 2008, the onset of the Great Recession, the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. Child poverty in Ohio, at nearly 1 in 7 children, is up 23 percent.
Job growth, a top focus for citizen Kasich, has been subpar for 32 straight months. The governor even admitted on Meet The Press that Ohio’s economy was stalled. That’s interesting, since he inherited a state on the rebound, thanks to former Gov. Ted Strickland, who took the worst the Great Recession handed out, but persevered through astute budgeting and management, using the emergency “rainy day” fund and federal state stabilization dollars, to keep diving deeper. These tools were used by Strickland with great success, so based on Gov. Kasich’s criticism of Strickland, it understood he wouldn’t have used them. Ohio was already on a roaring road to recovery when John Kasick took over. He failed in the first term to deliver enough jobs to keep up with demand. President Obama’s creation of about 2.6 million jobs so far only produces questions for why Gov. Kasich can’t move his job dial higher? Experts say Ohio won’t reclaim all jobs lost from the Great Recession for another four years or more, when Kasich will be gone from being governor by 2019, while his reengineered government, too legally complicated to unravel, remains in place.
Like Romney, a venture capitalist who bought and closed business, put people out of work in the process, Gov. Kasich further feathered his nest by parlaying his public sector experience to Wall Street banker income at Lehman Brothers. The storied Wall Street banking house triggered the start of the Great Recession when it went bankrupt. While at Lehman, Mr. Kasich, who had left congress in 2000 following a short-lived run for president, assisted in match-making Ohio with Lehman. Ohio went on to lose about $400 million when the deal he brokered, between Lehman and state retirement funds, went south. Mr. Kasich, who once adored Lehman’s prickly CEO Dick Fuld, distanced himself from the firm, and its management, once it fell on hard times. He claimed he was just one employee, among thousands, and that the sins of the father should not be born by the son.
On one issue after another, John Kasich and Mitt Romney are bosom buddies, birds of a feather. Gov. Kasich says once he wins he’ll put Hillary Clinton on the defense, starting on day one. If the governor of Ohio survives the demolition derby known as the GOP presidential primary cycle, he indeed may face-off against Mrs. Clinton, who history shows won Ohio in 2008 by defeating Barack Obama. Issue after issue, Mrs. Clinton, should she be the nominee next year, already has built-in momentum from all the people who voted twice, once in 2008 and again in 2012, to elect a Democrat over the Republic.
Whether it was John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012, John Kasich may put on a good feel-good show about his miracle state, but statistics on jobs, income, health, poverty and more, document with clarity hiss “Ohio Miracle” is mostly a mirage. His showmanship, like a Music Man from Ohio, will spin himself as a new fresh face pushing big ideas with candor and bluntness. The coalition of voters—seniors, minorities, women, students, low-wage workers, immigrants, you name them—will see the Music Man revealed. Whether it’s Mr. Kasich or Jeb! Bush or maybe even Donald Trump, giving the gears of government to a Republican like Kasich will repudiate the last eight years of progressive government, that Republicans including John Kasich have fought tooth and nail to delay or torpedo.
Now at age 63, Gov. Kasich sees his last political hurrah unfolding before him. His currency as a candidate is being valued now, and encounters with Mitt Romney are important. Romney said the second best choice he’s made in his life, next to marrying his wife, Anne, was picking Paul Ryan of Wisconsin to be his VP partner last time. Kasich clearly sees the opportunity to turn his state stage into a national stage as a sugar plum fairy dancing before his eyes.
The Ohio governor will likely enjoy his lunch with Mitt Romney, even though each will know the other wasn’t the apple of their eye. Each might as well be looking into a mirror when they address each other. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, is there a difference between John Kasich and Mitt Romney at all?