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John Kasich – Can he attract the independents?

July 27, 2015

The Ohio governor finally announced his official bid for the nation’s highest office on July 21, with less than three weeks to go before the first debate.

Some say that he waited too long, given all the oxygen being sucked up by Donald Trump. On the other hand that could be a positive. With only one clearly popular candidate at present, the remaining candidates don’t have to poll in double figures to assure a place on the stage in Cleveland.

Governor Kasich’s problem is the same as a number of other candidates…name recognition.

In the Hollywood atmosphere of early campaigning, where box office stats count for more than substance, Governor Kasich almost needs to find that one magic moment where something he says will go so viral that the country will notice him. And he needs to do that without alienating the midrange of the country.

On the face of it, Kasich has something for almost everyone in the undecided column to like, whether they lean Republican or Democrat.

He wants to tackle illegal immigration and border security, but he isn’t proposing that we treat people already here as the enemy.

He has made more than a nod to the pro-life voters by enacting some of the tougher laws on abortion clinics, but has not enacted an outright ban. Indeed, when it comes to some issues, particularly those addressing poverty, he sounds more like a leftie than a rightie.

That ticks off the far right wing of the GOP, but it aligns well with the average real-world voter.

Most of us are not ideologues.

Many people who are staunchly anti-abortion are in full agreement with the need for contraception, believing that if there is no baby created, the need for abortions would be substantially reduced or even eliminated, except for medical reasons.

Folks that support supplemental feeding programs and free school lunches understand that at some point the nation must break the generational cycle of government dependency.

Real people understand that even if immigrants came illegally (or at best, with the tacit approval and encouragement of the current administration) most of them just want a chance at a better life. Statistically, they are not all rapists and murderers, and most of us are willing to give them that shot at success as long as they play by the rules.

Even if they have to whisper it behind their hands and never hint at their real feelings online, most of the voting public has a lot more in common with Kasich’s self-styled “compassionate conservatism”  than they dare to admit.

In adopting that label, Governor Kasich puts himself squarely in competition with Jeb Bush.

While Bush often comes off as detached and aloof and very much under the thumb of the RNC, Kasich seems to be able to project more energy and honesty.

In fact the biggest knock against him so far from the right is that he is sort of a loose cannon or a bit of a maverick, meaning that the party headquarters doesn’t completely control him.

Many voters would not view that as a negative.

As far as credentials go, Kasich’s are about as impeccable as they get. Unlike Bush, he is a sitting governor. Unlike Hillary Clinton, when he talks about being raised and living in the middle class, he can actually prove it. Like Scott Walker, he has run and won in a state that leans heavily left. Unlike Walker, his state is actually better off than it was when he took office, having gone from a huge budget deficit to a surplus. In between his political jobs he actually worked for a paycheck.

And lest we forget, the last time the Federal budget balanced was while Kasich was a ranking member of the U.S. Congress, and the decidedly fiscally conservative chairman of the House Budget Committee. His views on creating a national balanced budget amendment are not something he just invented for this campaign.

Like Trump he can be blunt and even abrasive, but he does it with study behind the words. If he doesn’t have a firm position on something, he isn’t afraid to say so.

All that sounds as close to the candidate that can pull from the middle of both parties as Republicans could wish for at this point in the race.

The question is, can he tell the nation his story fast enough and loudly enough to be competitive?  Time will tell.

From → op-ed

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