Government

Kasich Takes to Road as Pundits Question Style

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Gov. John Kasich takes to the road this week as he edges closer toward an announcement on whether he will seek the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination. Today he will make appearances in  South Carolina, tomorrow in Michigan and Wednesday in New Hampshire.

Kasich, who attended a summit Friday in Utah hosted by 2012 GOP standard-bearer Mitt Romney following a trip to Nevada Thursday, will end this week with an event in Washington, D.C., his New Day for America committee reports. On June 24 he will visit Iowa.

The Hill reported last week that Kasich is getting “closer and closer” to making a decision, citing comments the Ohio governor made in a Fox Business Network interview.

“It’s a disciplined process because I don’t want to do this just for the sake of it. I need to know that I could win and look at what I bring is a record that’s unique,” Kasich said

During the interview, he cited his experience in Congress, where he chaired the Budget Committee and served on the Defense Committee; the “massive turnaround’ Ohio has had; and his experience in the private sector.

According to a Bloomberg story, Kasich’s address at the Utah summit focused on his biography, including his meeting with Richard Nixon as a freshman, his adherence to Ronald Reagan’s philosophy “since before his 1982 election” to the U.S. House of Representatives, and his work on balancing budgets.

One of the factors influencing a potential Kasich run appears to be the lack of fire ignited by  former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother, George W. Bush, derailed Kasich’s 2000 plans.

Jeb Bush, who reportedly will formally enter the race today, hasn’t proved to be the commanding presence in this year’s GOP field that his brother was in 2000, with the former Florida governor one of five or so prospective leaders for the nomination.

“I didn’t think I was going to be back up here again, because frankly I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn’t happened,” Kasich told New Hampshire business leaders last week, according to a Washington Post story outlining Bush’s troubles. The article also notes Kasich is attempting to woo the same donors Bush has pitched.

As Kasich moves closer to announcing a final decision on a run, media outlets are reporting on issues of both style and background that could be potential barriers for the Ohio governor.

In an article on the NBC News website, “Is John Kasich Too Cranky to Be President,” leading conservative voices including Fred Barnes, editor of the Weekly Standard, raised questions regarding Kasich’s temperament. Kasich could be “somewhere on the ticket” if “he stops acting somewhat like a jerk,” Barnes told radio host Hugh Hewitt last week.

“He spends a lot of time criticizing other Republicans … and that doesn’t make any sense,” Barnes said.

But Barnes also said that winning Ohio, a crucial swing-state in recent elections, could depend on Kasich being the presidential or vice presidential nominee.

Also quoted in the NBC story is Mark Souder, a former Indiana congressman who served in the U.S. House of Representatives with Kasich. He said Kasich’s “lack of patience” would be “a big challenge” for his former colleague.

“His mannerisms, his expressions, his sarcasm, etc., can be off-putting at times,” Souder remarked.

These aren’t new criticisms. An April column by Brent Larkin for Northeast Ohio Media Group posited that Kasich might have the “right message” but might be the “wrong messenger” for Republicans. In addition to not begin seen as sufficiently conservative by the far right of the GOP base, the column pointed to Kasich’s “peculiar personality” as a potential liability.

“Kasich’s a lousy listener, has an astonishingly short attention span, often comes off as narcissistic, and is wired so tightly one never quite knows what’s about to tumble out of his mouth,” Larkin wrote.

In the Bloomberg online story, Kasich appears to acknowledge several of the concerns. Ahead of the possible presidential run, he “is testing out a new disciplined persona,” according to the article.

“Everything you say now is under a microscope so I’ve got to think more like a scientist,” he said.

A story on CNN’s website recently questioned whether Kasich’s Wall Street ties could prove to be a liability. In 2001, Kasich joined Lehman Brothers – “arguably the most deeply vilified Wall Street firm,” according to the story – and worked there until its collapse in 2008. His time there “is likely to serve as rich fodder for political attacks” should the governor become a serious contender for the nomination.

“His banking background is particularly ripe for scrutiny and criticism in the 2016 cycle, as populist, anti-Wall Street sentiment is fueling support for a number of candidates on both sides of the aisle,” the article states.

The evidence is mixed on how effective that tactic would be.

Such a strategy, wielded by then-Gov. Ted Strickland and his allies in 2010, proved ineffective for the Democratic incumbent, as Kasich denied him a second term. President Barack Obama, in his 2012 reelection bid, more successfully portrayed Romney’s work at Bain Capital as a liability.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.