Taking a serious candidate seriously

John Kasich predicted that he would be “the story” coming out of New Hampshire. To a great extent he was. Kasich came second to a candidate who had been leading for the best part of a year. Trump’s success still seems surprising, but it had been clearly predicted. Other stories were mostly negative. Cruz failed to build on Iowa. Rubio stumbled. Bush might just be back in the race.

Your columnist finds it difficult to believe that Kasich can assemble a top class team, build a campaign infrastructure, and raise his profile enough to compete with Trump and Cruz. This means his breakthrough in New Hampshire may ultimately prove damaging to the GOP. He sucked up votes, profile and space in the campaign that could be moving towards Rubio or Bush, who are both better placed to build on it. But Rubio’s debate stumble and Bush’s family baggage and personal awkwardness might already be insuperable barriers for them.

So it is worth asking, what if Kasich can make a race of this. If former candidates such as Christie, Fiorina and even the long departed Scott Walker rally to him, this could help him build momentum. He has bona fides with southern conservatives such as Trent Lott and Dick Armey, who both served in congressional leadership with him. Governor Bentley of Alabama is a supporter and Newt Gingrich has spoken very highly of him. Arnold Schwarzenegger brings star power. If he can split the South with Trump, Cruz and Rubio, while winning in the Midwest and Northeast he could emerge as the candidate.

The résumé is stellar. There has been no better prepared non-incumbent candidate for president for generations. A two-term governor of Ohio he also served longer in Congress than Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama combined. He served in the House, which gives less weight to seniority. In their brief tenures in the Senate they rose to positions of absolutely no influence at all. He chaired the Budget Committee. The budget is a policy area where the House has seniority over the Senate, so chairing this committee made him critical to whole budget process.

He works across the aisle to get things done. It is likely that he deserves more credit than Newt Gingrich (a broad picture guy) or Bill Clinton (a reluctant reformer) for the deals that delivered welfare reform and balanced budgets. No wonder Gingrich considers him one of the four most important conservative leaders of recent decades.

In Ohio he has made things work. He defeated an incumbent governor in 2010 and romped to a thirty point win when he was the incumbent himself. A thirty point win in the swingiest of swing states is something that just doesn’t happen. 

Democrats would try to paint him as a racist, sexist, homophobe who hates poor people. That’s what they do. But with John Kasich as the target that would be a hard sell. . 

Kasich is a very serious politician with a serious record of achievement. He fizzes with ideas, but can be very wooden in his delivery. He can get sanctimonious with people who disagree. He sometimes seems to believe the old liberal lie that not agreeing with him is a moral failure. But he is probably the most broadly experienced candidate since John Connally – who came fifth in Republican primaries in 1980. 

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Quentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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