I haven’t written much, at all, about Governor Kasich’s presidential campaign.
Mostly, this is due to being crazy busy at work and directing more time to family and personal time. But there’s another reason. It’s because I’m not on board.
This put me in an awkward position, because prior to this year we had always been squarely behind Kasich in most issues when it came to his job as governor and his reelection. We supported our incumbent Republican governor and gleefully made endless fun of his hapless opponent, Ed Fitzgerald, last year.
We still called him out when we disagreed. Subverting the Ohio legislature to ram through Medicaid expansion under Obamacare was one such instance. I thought expanding Medicaid was a bad idea, and defying the legislature in Obama-like fashion was an even worse idea.
I could agree to disagree. However, shortly after the governor won reelection and started focusing on preparing for his presidential run, things started to change.
Instead of just defending his Medicaid decision on its merits, he began to go on the offensive against those who disagreed with him in very personal ways.
- He suggested that people who disagreed with him “think we should put people in prison”.
- He implied that disagreeing with Medicaid expansion made you a bad Christian and that it was his ticket into heaven.
I won’t go into how wrong that is in a scriptural sense, but it was at this point that I decided I couldn’t support him in a run for president. I would support him if he were the nominee, but not in the primary. Disagreeing with your base is one thing. Telling them they’re going to hell for disagreeing is another thing entirely.
What continues to astonish me is how Governor Kasich thinks this strategy will work. Yes, a candidate needs to distinguish himself from his primary opponents. But rather than build his debate performances around an optimistic, positive vision for the future under his policies, he has taken to being the angry man on stage who needs to lecture his fellow Republicans.
That was especially true this past Tuesday night at the debate in Wisconsin. He constantly interrupted out of turn and demanded to have a response to almost every statement made by the other candidates. It was rude and very irritating. If his intention was to show leadership and appear presidential, he failed miserably and came off as just plain obnoxious.
It was also completely unnecessary. Everybody knows that Donald Trump’s supposed plan of deporting 12 million people is ridiculous. It’s especially obvious to the moderate voters that Kasich is going after. Why waste an interruption to tell people something they already know?
Kasich would be better off promoting an optimistic and hopeful view of the future. For example, imagine all of the positive impacts that having a balanced federal budget would have. But instead, Kasich’s entire appearance was one of anger and talking down to his opponents on stage. He has spent more time and energy criticizing other Republicans than he has criticizing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. We saw this strategy before from Jon Huntsman. It didn’t work out well at all, so why is Governor Kasich repeating it?
Finally, no matter whether your policies are wrong or right…voters must like you. It sounds so simple, but its extremely important. The governor’s behavior made that almost impossible to anyone other than his already committed supporters. His repeated interruptions are all anyone is going to remember. Kasich’s long experience in government as a legislator and an executive, easily his strongest asset, is absolutely meaningless if you make people dislike you.
Kasich’s performance in the fourth debate was universally viewed to be extremely damaging to himself. He was even booed by the audience, something that only Donald Trump also accomplished. I wasn’t the only one irritated. Take a look at this focus group of New Hampshire voters. These aren’t Tea Party folks. These are moderately conservative Republicans from the very state Kasich is basing his entire campaign on. Their reaction is just brutal.
I’ll spare you other videos and commentary from that evening. They don’t get any better.
I don’t understand what Governor Kasich was thinking. Perhaps this was the result of advice from John Weaver. Maybe it was on his own. But one thing is clear. It’s going to drive his favorable numbers among the GOP electorate way down into underwater territory. People don’t want to vote for a jerk, and I’m sorry, but that’s exactly how the governor acted on stage Tuesday night.
I believe it was a death knell for his presidential campaign, and probably killed any prospects of being picked as a running mate as well.