It was a long three-hour debate Wednesday night, according to the Republicans’ presidential candidate poll leader, Donald Trump. Eleven candidates were lined up like ducks at a shooting gallery at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, Wednesday.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was one of them, as he was on August 6 in Cleveland, site of the first GOP debate that only featured ten. This was a chance, as the other ten candidates realized, to differentiate themselves and standout from the crowd. For Mr. Kasich, his performance did little to catch lighting in a bottle.
The man who wants to be the nation’s next executive pilot is, unfortunately, polling very low in national Republican polls as Plunderbund has reported.
Sound And Fury
The sound and fury of the night came courtesy of questions from CNN moderators, designed to cage fight candidates by asking one to comment on what another had said about one topic or another. Sparks flew, mainly, between one candidate, Donald Trump, and others from Carly Fiorina to Jeb Bush to Rand Paul, with minor sideshows with other candidates like Ben Carson in the mix.
Business CEO and outsider Carly Fiorina and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida were assessed by The New York Times to have delivered the best performances of the night. Fiorina made the most of every question she was asked, and jumped in even when it wasn’t her turn. Sen. Rubio, meanwhile, consistently answered foreign policy questions with apparent ease.
Fiorina was widely assessed as the big winner of tonight’s debate, the second Republican debate so far, by virtue of showing her steely side as she verbally spared with league leader Donald Trump, landed some solid punches in the process. The New York billionaire, who was more controlled Wednesday than he was in the first debate or at his campaign events, recently disparaged the former Hewlett Packard CEO’s looks. Trump changed course, though, demurring as he complimented her on her beauty.
Kasich Looking Angry
Despite three hours of air time, John Kasich was mostly shut out, as time tabulators said he had only nine minutes and 44 seconds of airtime. When he did speak, he seemed more like a pull-toy doll reciting copy from his campaign videos, past and present. Kasich emphasized he’s the best choice for Republicans if they want to regain the presidency next year because he’s been there, done that, at both the federal and state level.
As the Times reported, “Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio sounded a measured tone on the Iran nuclear deal that most Republicans loathe, but at other points looked angry, even when he was in a split-screen shot.”
Standing in front of President Reagan’s plane, his metaphor of choice for the evening was about aviation. “You’ve got to be able to land the plane,” he said, explaining what Americans expect their president to know how to do. If Ohio’s flight path is any indication of the governor’s aviator skills, his numbers don’t auger well for that future safe landing.
During the debate, Ohio’s governor got crucified by Ted Cruz, whose answer to the Iran deal, that he would tear it up on day one, made Kasich’s muddled, nuanced response look suspicious to true conservatives who turnout to vote in primary elections. Trying to have it both ways again, Gov. Kasich said he wouldn’t have done the deal in the first place, but wouldn’t do as Cruz said he would. That establishment-Republican answer likely raised red-flags with real conservatives who want action not posers compromising, as Kasich’s answer implied he’d do.
Media Bedfellow: Chris Matthews And John Kasich
In the post-debate spin room, Kasich made a bee line to the MSNBC TV show set where Chris Matthews, a political talk show host and confessed fan of Kasich, was holding court with guests to review the night’s activities. One reason he may have crashed the show is that the media appeared not interested in Kasich, whose handlers, like other candidate staffers, were holding signs with their contestant’s name with few media gathered around it.
Then, only 38 minutes into the post-debate coverage on CNN and MSNBC, Gov. Kasich saw an opportunity to crash Matthew’s telecast. Observers noted that, because few pundits and reporters seemed interested in him, he course-corrected, which a competitive candidate who stood out from the crowd and basks in the bright lights and cameras as reporters pelt them with questions wouldn’t have to do. If Kasich’s goal was to show he was the so-called grown-up on stage, his role as Father-Knows-Best didn’t work. Too much attention, it can be said with confidence, wasn’t the governor’s problem.
Accordingly, he made his charge at Matthews. Clearly in his element now, John Kasich seized the moment as Matthews told the governor how much he likes him as he essentially turned the show over to him. Beyond his like of Kasich and his showmanship, it’s unclear whether Matthews actually likes the governor’s policies. John Kasich dipped into the well of friendship with Matthews to buy some goodwill he didn’t earn onstage since his exposure during the debate itself wasn’t a breakout moment and post-debate attention was sparse.
Kasich, now 63-years old, dated himself at the beginning of the debate by remarking that he might have flown with President Reagan on Reagan’s Air Force One plane, housed at the Reagan Library, that served as the backdrop to tonight’s CNN sponsored second GOP debate.
Kasich called himself an “inside-out guy,” when asked to respond to the strong performances by the real outsiders, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson. Ohio’s term-limited governor further dated himself when he rattled off a litany of old Washington insiders, like Barry Goldwater, John Tower, John Stennis and others, who he said he learned a lot from. Kasich has also said he learned a lot working at Lehman Brothers, too, but his words about what exactly he learned there are sparse.
Matthews’ fondness for Kasich and his politics, referring presumably to the governor’s performance politics style, is clear. The rapid-fire talker told the term-limited governor that a lot of Democrats like him. Matthews asked the Cheshire Cat smiling governor if that was a problem? “Of course not,” Kasich said, using his best Cheshire Cat smile. Kasich ten toyed with Matthews, poking him about how they worked together, always putting the country first. Kasich, who hosted his own political talk show on Fox and who guest-hosted for Matthews on occasion, poked at Matthews, joking that his guest hosting stopped because his ratings were so good. Matthews, of course, Local and friendly Columbus reporters were swarming nearby, recording the governor’s every quip, joke and pronouncement.
Like the skilled politician he is, the self-confessed “inside-out guy” Gov. Kasich said little of substance other than portray Ted Cruz and others who want tear up President Obama’s Iran Deal immediately as being inexperienced. One of key selling points rests on his experience in Washington as a congressman for 18 years, and now as governor of Ohio for nearly five years.
Steve Schmidt, a Republican and campaign manager for John McCain in 2008 and a GOP who’s a resident GOP expert on MSNBC, asked the twitchy governor what he needed to do in the next 60 days to win the nomination? John Kasich responded with talk of all the people signing up for him and wanting to meet him, an amazing thing he repeated. But that’s basic Kasich, always be the sun other plants have to orbit around.
Matthews asked Kasich who the “Kasich people” are. Basic Kasich again called for coyness, so he didn’t answer. Instead, smiling his smile of secrets, he told Matthews when pressed again to name his advisers, “You have to figure that out, Chris.” But making claims without giving details, or names in this case, is basic Kasich. It’s no wonder, therefore, that he also can’t name one federal program he’d cut to balance the federal budget even though he’s out pushing for one.
The crash course in Kasich ended when Matthews offered his scenario regarding who Republicans will eventually turn to support when the fury over Donal Trump dies down, and voters don’t want to nominate a far-right-winger like Sen. Cruz or a bible-thumper like former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Matthews suggested that the best ticket, one he said he’s heard mentioned by others regarding who Republicans will finally coalesce around, will be some candidate in the middle, an establishment party candidate. Matthews said that ticket could be John Kasich for president with Marco Rubio, a senator from the equally important state of Florida, as the running mate.
With Kasich on the ticket, Ohio is in play in a new way. With Rubio on the ticket, Florida is in play in a new way. No president has been elected in modern times without winning two of three states, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania.
A Kasich-Rubio ticket would give the GOP its best shot at defeating a Democratic candidate, whoever that may be. Kasich boasted that Hillary Clinton, the leader who’s lead has been shrinking recently, won’t win Ohio with Kasich leading the ticket..
“I’ll think about it tonight,” Kasich told Matthews about his fantasy ticket before bolting the set.