As if the field of Republican presidential candidates wasn’t quite big enough already, Kasie Hunt and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner reported for msnbc this afternoon that yet another notable figure has thrown his hat into the ring.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the 16th Republican to enter the 2016 presidential race on Tuesday, telling supporters here he has the skills and experience to run the country.“I have the experience and the testing, the testing, which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world,” Kasich said at Ohio State University in Columbus. “And I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States, and I have to tell you it’s a daunting challenge.”
This is Kasich’s second run for the White House, following a failed effort 15 years ago, when he was still a congressman, chairing the House Budget Committee.
This year, however, it’s tempting to see the Ohio Republican as a real contender, at least at first blush. Kasich is relatively popular in one of the nation’s most important swing states; Ohio’s economic growth has been pretty good since he took office (which is more than the other three sitting governors in the race can say); and he’s quite far to the right on issues such as voting rights, reproductive rights, labor unions, renewable energy; and the fiscal debate.
On top of this, Kasich has experience as a paid political Fox News pundit and he even worked on Wall Street, serving as a managing director at Lehman as it collapsed in 2008.
For much of the American mainstream, this won’t sound like a compelling c.v., but in Republican circles, Kasich brings a perfectly credible resume to the table.
And yet, if we’re being charitable, Kasich enters the race as a longshot, whose weak support in the polls will probably exclude him from the GOP debates – including the one held in his home state in two weeks. So what’s the problem?
Part of the issue for Kasich is, despite his years of conservatism, he’s seen as a relative moderate by contemporary Republican standards. Far-right activists still won’t forgive him for embracing Medicaid expansion, for example, and on immigration, the governor has said he’s supportive of a possible pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.
What’s more, during his time in Congress, Kasich even voted for the assault-weapons ban.
Given how much 2016 competition the Ohio Republican faces, this should effectively end the conversation and doom Kasich’s campaign before it starts.
But making matters slightly worse is the governor’s ability to occasionally rub people the wrong way on a personal level. The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently ran a piece from Brent Larkin, who asked, in all seriousness, “Is John Kasich too big a jerk to be president?”
The NBC report left nothing to the imagination. A June 11 story about Kasich, written by reporter Perry Bacon Jr., began this way: “He could be a top contender for the GOP nomination. But first, he might want to get people to stop calling him a jerk.”The story went on to report what political insiders have known for years — that Kasich’s grating style “is known to be brusque, confrontational and dismissive of others’ views, even fellow conservatives.”It also quoted Fred Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard and a powerful voice in Republican politics, as saying that if Kasich is to win the GOP nomination for president, he will have to stop “acting somewhat like a jerk.”
To see this problem in action, consider the 2011 incident in which Kasich threw a bit of a tantrum after getting a speeding ticket, lashing out at a police officer as an “idiot” for doing his job. More recently, there was a cringe-worthy discussion last year with the editorial board of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which the governor played a bizarre and childish game, pretending his Democratic rival wasn’t sitting next to him, and refusing to even acknowledge his existence.
A reporter from National Journal noted last month that he met with several New Hampshire voters, who were interested in Kasich and had the chance to spend some time with the Ohio governor. They “liked him less” after the in-person gathering.
Moderation on key issues and an unpleasant personality is not a good combination for a Republican presidential hopeful. Kasich has a long road ahead.