Those of us who have known John Kasich from his early days in politics are familiar with his naturally combative style. Dating back to the 1970s when he rose from statehouse intern to legislative aide for then-Republican State Senator Buzz Lukens, Mr. Kasich’s (dis)temperament has worked well for him over his nearly four decades in professional politics.
But it may have just met its match.
Following his widely panned performance at the fourth presidential debate held Tuesday in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Gov. Kasich’s rude and angry attempts at intimidation could end up being the big bolder blocking his path to the GOP nomination.
Basic Kasich Not Working
Again on stage with Republicans vying for their party’s presidential nomination next year, John Kasich had one of the worst nights of his political career. In the wake of his dismal debate performance, big names in conservative media didn’t spare the rod to spoil the governor.
Conservative pundit Erick Erickson tweeted, “Doing radio in Ohio tonight and all the Ohioans are calling in to apologize for Kasich.” Basic Kasich is to dismiss any notion he can be wrong, and that’s what he did on Wednesday.
Kasich was unapologetic about his comments the night before, reports noted. “I’ve got to be somebody that stays true to myself, but I don’t how anybody would say that record is not a conservative record because it is a conservative record, and it’s practical, just like Ronald Reagan,” Kasich said in an interview with Neil Cavuto of Fox News. Cavuto was one of the three moderators.
One top Kasich spokesman said, “There are always people who will find some reason to disagree or push back and he is very comfortable having those conversations,” according to Politico. “He’s [Kasich] also very comfortable calling out those ideas which are successful only in theory or the abstract and which will not produce the results we need to get America going and which will only backfire in the general election and he called those out last night and he’s going to continue to do that,” Scott Milburn, a long-time Kasich kitchen-cabinet insider said.
Since national media appears not to know the governor’s real track record in Ohio, relying instead on his own carefully crafted but easily debunked narrative of miracle worker, Milburn wasn’t asked to explain why Gov. Kasich’s belief that lower income taxes create jobs isn’t itself theory given the history of that belief in action in Ohio.
After five years of Kasich Administration razzle-dazzle, including the creation of a private job group that likely would be declared unconstitutional if the state’s supreme court had to weigh-in on it, Ohio has failed to meet the national job creation average for 35 straight months, even though Kasich has the largest bonded debt of any state in the nation.
Glenn Beck, no shrinking violet in the world of conservative media personalities, blasted Kasich on Facebook. “EPIC LOSER: John Kasich. Just bad on every front. EPICALLY BAD. Looked rude, old, desperate, cheap, and wildly wrong ON MANY FRONTS. That was a suicide mission on himself.”
Conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham also clobbered Ohio’s CEO-style governor on immigration. “How does John Kasich think they are law-abiding? The law-abiding people are the LEGAL immigrants,” she said.
Meanwhile, with the first primaries just a couple months away, some are wondering whether a Kasich deathwatch is warranted. Conservative pollster Frank Luntz, whose fame, fortune and forte come from the language arts, said the results from his post-debate focus group gave Kasich record-low results. Luntz’ focus group on Kasich featured participants saying he was “boring,” “irritating,” and that the Ohio governor didn’t belong on the main debate stage on Tuesday night.
Piling on, Politico’s Insider caucus found that 38 percent of participants said Kasich lost the debate, more than any other candidate mentioned (31 percent said Bush, 13 percent said Ben Carson, and 10 percent said Donald Trump). Undaunted by the withering criticism following the debate, Camp Kasich blasted out an email to supporters about the “positive coverage” he got from his debate performance. The Daily Beast liked his exchange with Donald Trump on deporting illegal immigrants. The New York Times said Kasich and Bush “presented themselves as experienced chief executives who had practical solutions to deal with national challenges like immigration.
In Ohio, where media generally faun over the twice-elected but now term-limited governor, Gov. Kasich enjoys a sort of criticism “free zone.” Buckeye media, especially the states two largest newspapers—The Cleveland Plain Dealer and The Columbus Dispatch—have covered the 63-year old’s every breath. From his first run for governor in 2010 to his reelection last year, the slanted boosterism accorded Gov. Kasich has severely compromised their credibility.
The best example of favoritism accorded to the hard-boiled, petulant state leader was the gift the Plain Dealer gave Kasich last year, when they removed from their website a video of the governor at an editorial board meeting that included his two challengers. Kasich’s roundly panned performance on Tuesday in Milwaukee was a Whitman’s sampler of his performance before the PD’s editorial board. After just a couple days, Camp Kasich asked the PD to remove its visual evidence of his distemper, bad manners and dismissive persona. The Plain Dealer, to its great shame, obliged with the request.
Plunderbund, who will soon be celebrating a decade of reporting, is the only media outlet that bravely covers John Kasich as others refuse to do. Plunderbund was threatened with a lawsuit by the Cleveland print paper if it didn’t stop posting a limited recording of Kasich’s embarrassing video showing him unadorned behind closed doors.
Basic Kasich could be John Kasich’s basic problem, especially if he thinks he can move forward on his own steam instead of moving forward because others in front lost their steam. Others, like Dan Balz of the Washington Post, forecast that the pugnacious Kasich will eventually have to take on an equally pugnacious candidate whose reputation is built on the kind of in-fighting New Jersey governors better like if they hope to win in the Garden State.
Chris Christie, who was relegated to the undercard debate on Tuesday, is a like-minded combatant like Kasich who isn’t afraid of bad press. And like Gov. Christie, Gov. Kasich, whose constant weaving of Bible babble with public policy is legend, likes to be Daniel in the lion’s den. Kasich gets off on criticism, since it validates his aging ego that he’s right and everyone else is wrong.