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Currently viewing the tag: "John Kasich"

As I’ve written more than once, Obama didn’t win the 2008 primaries because people hated Hillary Clinton. Some did, but many of his supporters thought Hillary was perfectly acceptable. Obama won them because of the contrast he cut with George W. Bush in every sense: background, style, intellect. Clinton obviously offered a contrast as well but it wasn’t as dramatic as the one Obama offered: Obama is neither white, nor a Boomer, nor an Iraq War supporter, nor part of a prominent political family. Clinton is all of those things, as was Bush. Replacing a white evangelical with some studied roughness around the edges with a secular black intellectual who was (and remains) quintessentially smooth was an unspoken driver of Obama ’08. I’m speaking mostly of the primaries here: in the general election, fundamentals reign mostly supreme. But I think that was a bit part of the general as well.

Looking at 2016, I was wondering who it is that could have a similar kind of pull for the Republicans, and I think the only real one that plausibly could is John Kasich. Just look at the field. Bush is drowning under the weight of his own family baggage and weaknesses as a candidate. He’s the exact wrong kind of contrast they’re going to want to draw with HRC. Walker has quickly faded and clearly seems to have no feel for presidential level politics. Rubio is obviously a possibility but he’s taking exactly the wrong angle, trying to cast himself as another biography-driven, cool and charismatic Obama type when that is simply not the mood of the moment, nor is he a natural fit for that persona. (Obama would never have grabbed the water bottle.) Go down further and it just gets crazier. Huckabee and Cruz are at this point interchangeable Tea Party dimwits who won’t get anywhere near the nomination. Trump is Trump. Fiorina and Carson have not one day’s worth of experience in office between them. And so on. But Kasich? Almost a perfect response to Obama, if you think about it. Conservative, but with some willingness to break with orthodoxy. Actual blue collar roots. An unexciting but popular politician with significant executive experience. That’s a pretty good contrast, and certainly a better one than the others can provide. But stuff like this makes me think that he’s also the sharpest political operator in the Republican field. Kim Davis’s actions are hilariously counterproductive, more likely to kill off resistance to marriage equality than to spur mass backlash. To drag her case through the courts and then just ignore the ruling? Dumb. Putting aside Davis’s own serial marriages, there’s simply no real principle at stake here. If Davis doesn’t want to sign the licenses, she can always resign. But she won’t. Hilariously, she has forced conservatives to back a literal incarnation of their oft-invoked vision of crooked, parasitic government employees who draw paychecks and don’t do their jobs. Kasich understands this and condemns it, and is also going for a kind of Sister Souljah moment here, finding an undamaging way of breaking with the cultural politics that much of the country has fallen out of favor with. It says something about the field that nobody else has thought to do this, even though none except for the two aforementioned dimwits have actually made a show of standing with the woman. It’s not going to change the race on its own, but it’s a sign of tactical sophistication, if nothing else. And unless you want to count what Trump’s been doing as tactically sophisticated (which is not quite how I’d describe it), then this is rare indeed.

I’m beginning to think that Kasich might be the only person who could conceivably beat Clinton, barring some kind of economic disaster, though obviously he’s going to have his problems with his party’s purists and obviously there’s that Lehman Brothers thing. But no pol is without weakness, and I’ve not seen as well played and subtle a moment as this from the other candidates. Something to keep an eye on.

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Increasingly you see John Kasich’s name bubbling up as a possible presidential contender for the GOP. Mitt Romney said it. So did this guy. My immediate response would probably be like, “Hey, if y’all want to try another business Republican who lost a presidential race before and worked in the financial industry, then go on ahead!” You can see why Romney in particular would like the idea.

In all seriousness, we know that nothing happens in a vacuum, and that Kasich’s name is getting trial-ballooned at this point seems directly related to Chris Christie’s disastrous plummet in electability. So the people who were backing Christie are inevitably going to cast about for someone who checks most of his boxes, and Kasich in fact does check many. He has a record that is conservative but could plausibly be spun as bipartisan and moderate, which it is in some places. His financial industry ties would likely insure he could raise the money to plausibly run, which is undoubtedly a huge determinator of success in the entire venture. He’s as establishment as you can get and is more politically savvy than, say, a Ted Cruz bull in a china shop type. But he also shares the same weakness as Christie, from a nominating perspective: he’s not popular among the Tea folk due largely to his pushing through of Medicaid expansion, which could well earn him a veto among primary voters.

If you were to put me on the spot, my guess would be that Kasich is much better positioned to win a general election for the GOP than (putative main rival) Scott Walker would be, in spite of the his position at Lehman Brothers, largely because Kasich would probably be able to guarantee a win in Ohio while Walker wouldn’t be able to do so in Wisconsin (Ohio being split almost exactly down the middle politically means even a few percent of home state advantage would tip it), and Kasich does have a couple of major accomplishments that would appeal outside of the core GOP base while Walker has none. But Walker is better-positioned to win the GOP nomination in large part because of Kasich’s moves on Medicaid, and because Kasich abandoned his Walker-esque persona early on and focused more on touting his jobs record and trying to appear like a normal, empathetic human being. All of which is well and good, but I suspect Kasich was not seriously thinking of a presidential run when he was doing these things, and unless the base lets him slide on them, I don’t think he’s going anywhere. And apart from that, Kasich just doesn’t seem like someone with the communication skills to make a presidential run work, as nearly everything he says makes him sound like the FOX News host he used to be:

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Ohio Gov. Kasich says yes to Medicaid expansion, Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett says no.

This is actually pretty easy to explain. Kasich runs a less liberal state, but he evidently doesn’t have to worry about a primary challenger, so he can go ahead and take the odd liberalish stance that will set him up for a re-election bid. Corbett does have to worry about a primary, so he’s making decisions that will make his re-election even harder, and it’s going to be hard to begin with. In any event, it’s interesting to see the 2010 Red Squad Governors break up over a big issue like this.


Tuesday night turned out to be a very good night for Democrats, easily the best since Obama’s victory in 2008. The major wins here are, in rough order of importance:

This is all good news for Democrats, though obviously to differing degrees. The Ohio win is a big deal for a few reasons, namely that it’s helped the state’s Democrats regroup and mobilize, and it’s very nearly crippled John Kasich’s governorship with three years left to serve (Ohio has no recall mechanism, so short of resignation or impeachment they’re stuck with him). The double-digit margin of victory is a real accomplishment, and a sure sign that Kasich’s leadership of the state has completely foundered. This should* also likely mark the end of the GOP’s push to kill off public sector unions for the near future, as electoral defeats almost can’t get any more resounding.

The Mississippi initiative is reminiscent of South Dakota’s failed attempts to pass similar laws a few years back, in that it goes too far for all but the most radical of pro-lifers. Commentators insist on describing the abortion issue as hot-button, but it really isn’t–the public has pretty much decided how it feels about the issue and it actually has a pretty coherent position: keep abortions generally legal under Roe, but add some restrictions to the current regime. This stance is closer in substance to the Democrats’ position than to that of the Republicans, though the issue continues to be contentious largely because this consensus is unsatisfactory to activists and donors on both sides of the debate. Which, fair enough. But those folks (and particularly pro-lifers) often tend to interpret the equal numbers of self-identified pro-choicers and pro-lifers as significant rather than symbolic. In reality this is often more of a marketing category, neither group is a uniform bloc, as you can see by following the links. The notion of a personhood amendment is therefore going to be enticing to people who think that fortysomething percent of the public favors their ideas, but in the real world it’s a very tough sell: according to the Gallup Poll, only about 20% of the public believes in a complete ban on abortions, and the personhood concept goes even further than that to target some birth control provisions. Obviously a state like California or Pennsylvania would never enact such a law, but in heavily conservative Mississippi, you might figure that the 20% might carry the day. That didn’t happen, which almost certainly marks the end of this particular pro-life strategem for now, and it’s not every day you see reproductive rights winning at the ballot box in Mississippi! We’re arguably past the point where the pro-life movement has become considerably more radical than pro-life people in the country, and it’ll be interesting to see where the backlash leads.

The others are significant too. Iowa’s Senate flipping would have been a big deal, perhaps a shift toward a more Red Squad-ish Republican strategy in that state going forward. That didn’t happen, thankfully. Pearce’s defeat is satisfying to be sure, but he did lose to another Republican, albeit one who has less caustic views on immigration. This apparently answers the question of how out there you have to be to get kicked out of the GOP for being too xenophobic (reminiscent of how Ozzy Osbourne got kicked out of Black Sabbath for doing too many drugs, if nothing else). Beshear’s re-election is a boost for Democrats, but probably not very important more broadly, as he was facing one of the more inept opponents of recent years.
All in all, not a bad showing for Democrats. Not that it necessarily means anything going forward. San Francisco, for what it’s worth, gave interim Mayor Ed Lee a full term as expected, which matters to me because somehow several of the mayoral candidates somehow got my name put into their mailing lists and the resulting spam was annoying. Congrats Ed!

Still outstanding: the Virginia legislative races, which look to be pretty tight.

* Should, but I’m not taking odds.

John Kasich–the dollar store Scott Walker–is now hilariously backing away from his maximalist anti-union legislation (via TPM):
Kasich said avoiding a fight over state Issue 2 is in “best interest of everyone, including public employee unions.” He asked the unions to “set aside political agendas and past offenses.” […] Niehaus said Democrats expressed no willingness to meet in middle during the legislative process. “We did reach out. Made concerted effort,” he said. “Delete, delete, delete” is what the Democrats wanted to do.
The other side’s response to this was pretty dismissive, and rightly so. You don’t make a deal when you’re winning. But really, this whole thing is all about Kasich and his friends trying to position themselves as the reasonable ones and Democrats as the hard-liners. Problem: in the real world, ramming through unnecessary and unpopular legislation (and it was rammed through, they reshuffled committee assignments to do it, and forced some legislators to break commitments they made with voters) simply precludes the victim approach. It’s not going to happen. And since the real world isn’t much like Fox News, where logic is suspended and anything can be connected by anger and fear, this is a lesson Kasich will have to learn the hard way.

According to my research, Michigan allows recalls of statewide officials. Considering that Rick Snyder’s approval ratings are already in the Gray Davis zone, I wonder if we’ll start to hear about significant momentum toward that end soon. Ordinarily I don’t give any money to other states’ gubernatorial races, ’cause I really don’t care all that much, but I might make an exception if a credible recall effort comes about. I mean, Snyder’s just on a whole other level here compared to the rest of them.

What’s so strange about the Midwest Red Squad is the sheer audacity. Scott Walker soft-peddled his plans during his campaign. Snyder seems to have outright lied about his fundamental political identity. Kasich stuck to platitudes and vagueness during the campaign, and now he’s just barreling ahead. They got their Dubya ’04-style phony mandate and just went to town. These guys all now have approval ratings in the low 30s (though it’s likely they won’t get much lower than that). That’s still really low. I seriously doubt any of these guys will get more than one term in office (Walker and Snyder stand a chance of serving a lot less than that), but I always wondered why more politicians didn’t just swoop in, say to hell with a second term, and pursue a maximalist agenda without fear of pissing off people and counting on it being too hard to completely roll back when the other party takes power. I figured that it was a combination of survival instinct and the risk of suffering such a huge backlash that moves the ball even further in the other direction. But judging by their policies and attitude, it looks like Walker, Snyder, Kasich, Corbett and Paul LePage of Maine could be giving this theory a try. Then again, some combination of stupidity, arrogance, inexperience, and ideology could explain it all too.

Update: Looks like a once-competitive Michigan Senate contest now appears safely Democratic, just as it happened in Ohio. I’m not sure why Republicans are so hell-bent on upping Democratic odds of keeping the Senate, but they sure seem to be.



Kasich 2014, baby!

Looks like John Kasich is gunning to become America’s least-popular governor. He probably has the inside track, too, which is a considerable accomplishment considering the competition:

This method, called fracking, entails drilling a L-shaped well deep into shale and pumping millions of gallons of water laced with industrial chemicals — chemicals which the energy companies are not legally bound to disclose […] Due to the documented water contamination issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, both New York and New Jersey have imposed bans on fracking in their states. But the public health risk doesn’t seem to bother Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and state Republicans. The Ohio House introduced a bill early this month that would create a panel to open any state-owned land for oil and gas exploration to the highest bidder. This week, in an unreleased portion of Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.


But Kasich’s budget tells a different story. While reiterating the objective to provide “evidence-based parenting education through the Help Me Grow Program” and “provide safety screenings, parental mental health screenings, and needs-based referrals for 15,000 pregnant women and first-time programs” on one hand, Kasich slashed funding to programs that support this work with the other. He cut the Help Me Grow program — “a program for Ohio’s expectant parents, newborns, infants and toddlers that provide health and developmental services” — by $2.8 million, eliminated operational support for the Mothers and Children and Safety Net Services, and eliminated state funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers like community health centers which are “important providers of prenatal care for many low-income women of all racial and ethnic groups.”

I just don’t think it’s a good idea for a politician to allow something called “fracking” to occur in their state. The jokes just write themselves, as do the slogans. You never want to be on the receiving end of an unpopular policy that can easily be turned into a funny soundbite to attack you. It’s just not smart.

That aside, I just don’t get this. Kasich got his victory on collective bargaining (provisionally, pending a possible referendum which I wouldn’t necessarily bet on him winning), and now is the time to smooth out the rough edges and regain some popularity. He seems to have tried to do this on neonatal health before the old U-Turn, and now he’s advocating policies that only a lobbyist could like, and are about as popular as cholera. Admittedly, he’s not susceptible to a recall like Scott Walker will be next year, but these choices seem to indicate that Kasich doesn’t care about his popularity and is determined to pursue as maximalist a Tea Party platform for as long as he can. Which, given that a solid liberal freshman now has double-digit leads in the Ohio U.S. Senate race (against, among others, Kasich’s Lt. Governor, who is probably none to pleased about this), probably won’t be for too long. Seriously, though, I’m beginning to wonder if this guy won’t burn out quicker than Scott Walker. The Democrats winning back the WI Senate might actually help Walker by forcing him to compromise and thus become more popular. That is, ahem, hardly a certainty, but it’s not impossible. Kasich faces no such obstacles. If Kasich does this sort of stuff for two years, he really could decimate the Ohio Republican Party. I mean, really destroy it. The only question is, will other Republicans stand up and force him to change course? I’m guessing we all know the answer to that one.