Can you imagine how painful it must have been for John Kasich to step up to the camera and mournfully announce what so many were predicting for a long time: He would not press forward his failed campaign for the Republican presidential nomination after all. The primary voters could not be persuaded by the blue-collar kid who repeatedly wanted to remind us that his father was a mailman but never explained why any of that mattered for a guy trying for the second time to win his party’s prize. It didn’t, of course.
After blowing more than $10 million on his virtual circuit-riding residency in New Hampshire crowded with town halls, he finished second behind DT, which he immediately translated into the catalyst pointing him directly to the Oval Office. Second place in politics is hardly anything to brag about. Once the thrill had had lost its oxygen, he suffered inglorious defeat after defeat in all of the other primaries, except in his own state of Ohio, not even close in most of them, dodging troublesome questions about climate change, gays and the Middle East, among others.
But he plowed on while claiming strong support from the Lord, “moderate” Republicans” and his hospitable home state newspapers . Dutifully, his public relations officers in Columbus tilted the windmills daily reporting that he, or so they are certain you would believe, was, um…“surging”. What a whopper from folks who may actually believe that the world is flat.
So how could he possibly lose?
National pundits went for the bait of a nice- guy holy man who didn’t want to mix it up with the nasties in the race. And when he boasted of a resuscitation of his wilting campaign from his landslide victory in Ohio, did anyone note, or care,that his opponent had dropped out weeks before election day? And when he said he balanced the state budget, did anyone in the upper media report that he did it on the backs of Ohio’s cities? (Akron’s state funds were scissored by more than $10 million.) Or was the Washington Post’ s rating of public education in Ohio not worth more than an F grade? Etc. Etc. Etc.
MSNBC’s Chris Matthews so clearly went for the fictional character that he often said of Kasich, “I like the guy”.
As a former reporter and magazine editor in Columbus, I believe candidates find themselves in the comfort of the conservative Columbus Dispatch that creates optical illusions for its favorrite candidates beyond the state borders. (That’s true for Kasich, who says he never reads newspapers, an element of his self- professed independent mind.) The Dispatch cheer-leads Republican candidates while the Plain Dealer and BJ forever find a lot more good than bad about the gubernatorial mirage..
As for Kasich himself, he has long borne the reputation of a snappish, hard- edged figure that was reined in, for campaign purposes, to a Biblical scholar with a neighborly grin whose only interest was to move America ahead, even though he dwelled on his accomplishments of a generation ago as his selling points for tomorrow as the party’s can-do go-to man except when he isn’t.
Watching his exit speech, which projected the image of someone betrayed by his ego, I could only think of the realtor’s term that he, like an old house, had no curb appeal. He’d come on as a lion full of threats to his opponents as governor, but was now exiting as a lamb. He still will rely on the Lord, he assured everyone, to show him the way. Even so, that would be asking an awful lot of his Maker.