PASADENA, Calif., July 28, 2015 – Over the past several months, as more and more candidates joined the 2016 GOP field, many wondered what Ohio Gov. and former Congressman John Kasich was waiting for.
Last week, the man who played a critical role in orchestrating the last balanced budget in Washington finally entered the race. And if the latest polls are any indicator, waiting until the smoke cleared surrounding the announcements of other major candidates was a good decision.
GOP candidates that aren’t necessarily the top choice for evangelicals typically bypass the first primary in Iowa and head straight to New Hampshire, and Kasich has done just that. He has lobbied heavily in the Granite State over the past year, and the latest NBC News/Marist poll shows that Kasich has risen to fourth place, a 5 percent jump over the past month.
Gov. Kasich is making his mark by appealing to the base of the party with his very strong conservative record but also reaching out to the GOP’s moderates with a message of always being willing to work with those who disagree with him and shying away from divisive rhetoric.
Kasich’s Republican counter parts aren’t the only ones weary of his potential. There have been reports surfacing over the past few weeks that Hillary Clinton’s camp is more concerned about the threat he poses than any other GOP challenger in the race.
There is no doubt Kasich is building momentum, but that traction will only matter if it is accompanied by an organized ground game. When Kasich briefly ran for president in 2000, he was almost immediately overwhelmed by George W. Bush, who had the money but more importantly the structure to win. Fifteen years later, Kasich finds himself facing another well financed and balanced Bush campaign; this time it is younger brother Jeb.
Much has been made about the fact that no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio. That in and of itself might be the most compelling argument in regard to the possibility of a Kasich victory next November. Kasich has been an extremely successful governor in Ohio who not only holds a high approval rating, but whose re-election effort in November claimed victory in 86 of the state’s 88 counties.
The key for Kasich will be finding a way to get into the first Republican debate on Aug. 6. The debate, hosted by Fox News, will only be open to those who register in the top 10 of the average of the five most recent national polls at the time of the debate. Currently, Kasich is very much in the hunt sitting at #11, which is only 1 percent away from the ninth spot.
The recent surge in New Hampshire solidifies the idea that there is a legitimate opening for Kasich in this race. Real Clear Politic’s Rebecca Berg described the Ohio governor’s message as “combining positive aspects of other candidates.”
That will be the main angle the Kasich campaign takes: a conservative record as governor that so many voters are looking for, combined with substantial accomplishments in Washington and a personality that doesn’t alienate but rather focuses on common ground.
A lack of name recognition, a delayed entry into the race and a crowded GOP field are still strong enough factors to label Kasich as a long shot as July comes to a close. However, there is no true frontrunner in the Republican race and the door is wide open for a candidate with the record and overall likability that Kasich brings to the table.
If he can earn a spot at the table on Aug. 6 at the debate in his back yard of Cleveland, John Kasich could very well be the man to beat going forward.