In 11 previous Republican TV debates watched more for the name calling and insults candidates hurled at each other like fourth graders trading taunts at recess, Ohio Gov. John Kasich decided that if he wasn’t part of the scrum he could distinguish himself from the other candidates on style points alone.
In the 12th debate, held Thursday night in Miami, Florida, and sponsored by CNN, the latest episode of demolition derby GOP-style was magically transformed into an exchange of ideas, views and opinions that was more civil than any of the previous political slug fests.
Kasich ‘Nice Guy’ Magic Disappears
When all candidates act like reasonable adults instead of unreasonable warring siblings, John Kasich’s charm offensive to be the reasonable adult in the room looses its magic. Such was the case when even Donald Trump, who hits attackers back like a Marine drill sergeant discipline a rookie for failing to follow orders, commented about how civil it was on stage.
Did Kasich have the breakout performance he’s been hoping for since the first debate he barely qualified for last August? Not really. Others watching drew their own conclusions.
The very conservative Washington Times saw what others saw: “Gov. John Kasich: Disappeared for long stretches of the debate, and didn’t produce any memorable moments.” If the winners and losers as picked by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post is any indication, Kasich got lost in all the niceness.
In his loser column, Cillizza said John Kasich wasn’t bad, but added, “He just didn’t really stand out in any meaningful way.” The reporter who runs WaPo’s “The Fix” report, said Kasich’s “Mr. Nice Guy routine … played slightly less well in this debate because everyone was much nicer to each other.” Kasich’s debate performance, he wrote, “speaks to the larger conceit his campaign is built on; hang around, don’t make mistakes and offer yourself as an optimistic alternative.” Cillizza drew the obvious conclusion: “The only way a strategy like that works, of course, is if all of the people in front of you implode or kill each other off.”
Gov. Kasich, whose transplanted personality from nasty to nice has prompted some pundits to call him the “Barney the dinosoour candidate, because he loves you,” is 0-22 in primary and caucus elections so far. His biggest test, the one that will send him to the showers early or give him a little more life support, is fast approaching next Tuesday. That’s when Ohio holds its winner-take-all primary, with 66 delegates up for grabs. Recent polls are mixed, showing Kasich beating Trump while others show Trump beating Kasich in his home state.
Kasich Called Out On Cleveland School Plan Boast
When Gov. Kasich said, “I then went to Ohio and took Ohio from a basket case, working in a bipartisan basis to reform many things, including the Cleveland public schools, working with a Democratic mayor, Diane Ravitch’s eagle eyes couldn’t help but call him out on it. It’s no secret that all final four Republicans love for-profit charter schools and really dislike public schools and the union-dues-paying school teachers that teach in them.
“Does anyone fact check?” she asked, adding, “The federal government reports that 100% of the students in Cleveland are poor. On NAEP, Cleveland is one of the lowest performing urban districts in the nation. It has made meager gains during Kasich’s time in office,” she said after the debate. “I wish some journalist would ask the Kasich campaign for evidence of the reform in Cleveland’s schools for which he claims credit.”
When Common Core was raised in the debate, Mr. Kasich, a big supporter of it, knew better than to even mention the name. It’s a basic Kasich strategy he’s employed before when he wants to run silent, run deep on people or programs he doesn’t like, like Common core, that base GOP voters really don’t like. Kasich referred to Common Core, which Ohio has adopted during his administration, as “raising standards,” a rhetorical sleight of hand that everyone still knew what he was talking about.
One of Kasich’s biggest scandals, one no reporter seems competent enough to take him to task on, is just how far and fast education during his administration has fallen from his predecessor’s. Ohio’s system of education is now reported to be “a joke,” going from fifth best to 23rd, according to the Washington Post.