For everybody who watched John Kasich’s campaigns for governor in 2010 and again last year, his second campaign for president is nearly an exact copy.
Ohio’s conservative, hard-right leader whose prickly personality is legend has relied on treating state and now national media like chumps. Reporters and pundits, be they big or small, apparently aren’t clever enough to fact-check his record, choosing instead to believe his political evangelism about hope and inspiration that rings sour on nearly every note as one blocked reporter can attest to.
For all of Gov. Kasich’s bravado and confident quackery, he finds himself slipping in national polls, as well as some state polls like New Hampshire, where he has to finish well or leave the pack of Republican White House hopefuls as Scott Walker and Rich Perry have already done.
The story that Mr. Kasich is reaching deeper into his Washington network as his numbers wane is obviously off-script for the petulant governor who may think twice about what he wishes for as he dares all to check his record to see what he’ll do should his New Hampshire miracle come true.
In “Slumpig Kasich seeks Beltway boost,” Politico paints Team Kasich as whistling past the political graveyard after spending millions already with more on the way as his numbers go down. Basic Kasich says, when the news cycle isn’t to your advantage, run silent run deep. Accordingly, Gov. Kasich’s PR team did not respond to Politico’s request for comment.
A moving target is harder to hit than one that stands still. That lesson has long been practiced by Gov. Kasich—who continues to find himself in low single digits in recent New Hampshire polls despite having spent more than $5 million there to promote himself. He’s in the back of the pack, too, in Iowa and national polling. The crusty reformer is a master showman who enjoys the coy role as he plays hide-and-seek with reporters, most especially the big, multi-millionaire, elite variety who populate Sunday political talk shows and pretend to know what they are talking about.
Kasich PR Handlers Raptured Up
With the governor’s seasoned PR handlers, Scott Milburn and Rob Nichols, now raptured up to his presidential campaign, the no-news article Sunday in one Columbus newspaper about Mr. Kasich’s lack of any program details—taxes, jobs, military preparedness, help for working families, immigration or budgets, among many others—is the kind of sycophant reporting Team Kasich loves to see and depends on to avoid discussions that show the thin ice he’s skating on these days.
In 2010, citizen Kasich talked in metaphors about “linking arms” and “climbing mountains.” One of those mountains he wanted to climb but never said a word about during the campaign was his soon-to-come attack on collective bargaining rights for public sector union workers.
Had John Kasich mentioned he would get behind SB5, which voters later turned down 2-1, instead of winning by just 77,127 votes he would have lost by a half-million ballots. Kasich talked a good game then as he’s doing now. From July, when he declared his candidacy for the White House, until now, other candidates have revealed their plans. Donald Trump offered a detailed tax plan last week; Jeb! Bush has released policy papers; Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, both Democrats, have issued policy positions, too.
Kasich Waiting For ‘The Right Time’
In the meantime, the governor who wants a federal balanced budget amendment but who can’t name one federal program he’d cut has exactly zero plans in the public domain. Dancing around this fact, Mr. Milburn, who up until recently was the governor’s top state communications chief, said Gov. Kasich doesn’t need to yet.
“Unlike many other people, the governor has a current, fresh body of results from his leadership that people can look at to assess how he makes decisions, goes about reforms and how that work has produced conservative results,” Milburn told one reporter whose blanket coverage of Ohio’s governor amounts to an in-kind campaign contribution based on the PR boosterism for Camp Kasich. “At the right time, the governor will have plenty to say about leading the country and getting us back on track.”
According to Real Clear Politics, a go-to source for political polling, Gov. Kasich’s average polling number is 2.5 percent, a number that would exclude him from the next GOP debate sponsored by CNBC, who defined three percent as their cut-off point to inclusion in the third big Republican debate so far this year.
In the most recent NBC/WSJ poll for the Iowa Republican Presidential Caucus, Ohio’s term-limited governor musters just three percent as he trails ten others candidates by wide margins. Donald Trumps leads the Iowa pack at 24 percentage points followed by Ben Carson at 19 percentage points.
The same polling duo, NBC/WSJ, has Mr. Kasich in New Hampshire, the state he’s betting his presidential hopes on, at just six percent. Again, Gov. Kasich trails league leader Donald Trump at 21, Carly Fiorina at 16, Ben Carson at 10 and Jeb! Bush at 11.
Kasich Plays Media For Chumps
National media seems as easily captured by Mr. Kasich’s sweet narrative that he’s above politics, as he brings people together to solve problems. As Ohioans know, Gov. Kasich is only as good as his legislative branch, and in Ohio he was gifted in 2010 and again last year with a supermajority of hard-right Republican legislators who may quibble with their chief executive over details that amount to little but who have essentially given him the lion’s share of what he wants.
In 2010, Gov. Kasich had little to say other than the standard menu off any Republican’s wish list: low to no taxes, fewer regulations on business, among other sops to his big donor base. Last year, with the help of major player newspapers like the Columbus Dispatch and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gov. Kasich was liberated from any scrutiny despite the many scandals that occurred in his first term.
A former congressman for 18 years who parlayed his time in Washington into lucrative gigs with Fox News and Lehman Brothers, Mr. Kasich was further gifted when his only appearance captured with his other gubernatorial challengers last election cycle was taken down by the Plain Dealer shortly after the legacy newspaper put it up for the world to watch.
What Kasich defenders and reinterpretists like Milburn and Nichols and others didn’t want the world to see was their 63-year old boss who is actually campaigning on being the mature adult acting like the petulant, dismissive, rude 13-year old he is in real life. Allowing the PD’s video to show the governor in his natural state would only confirm what some reporters have witnessed when they’ve spent any time in his presence.
Other Republicans, most recently Mr Trump, have put out detailed policy plans on taxes. In all of them, the rich become richer as big holes are exploded in the deficit. John Kasich, American’s Quixotic budget balancer, has no intention of releasing any numbers on what he would do.
Look At The Numbers
When asked what he would do about Social Security, Gov. Kasich, who has already said he’d force workers near retirement to work longer and get less, said he would have to “look at the numbers.” Looking at the numbers, a political weasel’s strategy to avoid answering key questions voters need to know before an election, not after, is standard evasive strategy for the Buckeye State’s Music Man governor, who seems to think he can play real voters like Professor Harold Hill played the small town rubes of mythical River City, Iowa.
Why you may ask does he play coy? He knows he can treat media like first-year journalism students whose addiction to social media and the shiny objects that captivate their world play into Mr. Kasich’s political wheelhouse. Gov. Kasich is used to getting the first and last word despite sometimes saying nonsensical rhetoric that defy the facts and his record.
One of his few smack downs came from the Tampa Bay Times’ PolitiFact, which labeled “Mostly False” his claim that he left his time in Congress with a national surplus of $5 trillion dollars. Maybe Jeb! Bush opposition researchers who are thumbing through Mr. Kasich’s congressional records housed in a central Ohio library might come up with some facts that John Kasich or his handlers can’t explain away through some combination of razzle dazzle rhetoric that defies the reality of the facts.
Shame On The 4th Estate
Shame on national and state media for allowing Ohio’s Music Man governor to say what he wants without fear any one of them will check his record. After all, his sales pitch is, if you want to know what he’ll do as president, look at what he’s done as Ohio’s 69th governor.