I have often stated here that I am perfectly open to supporting (among others) John Kasich. That stands, but I admit to being troubled by this item from National Journal that compares him with one of 2012’s premier disasters, Jon Huntsman.
And, though NJ doesn’t pick up on it, he brings to my mind not just Huntsman.
With his blunt style, willingness to jab at the GOP base, and sterling establishment credentials—a former House Budget Committee chairman and a second-term governor of the most important state in presidential politics, for starters—Kasich has emerged as one of the press corps’ favorite dark-horse contenders in 2016.
But as he prepares to launch his campaign for president Tuesday in Columbus, Kasich risks becoming the purveyor of hard truths that the press loves to print but the Republican Party base hates to read.
“My party is my vehicle, not my master,” as Kasich likes to say.
Sounds a bit McCainish, doesn’t it? But back to Huntsman:
There is recent precedent for such a candidate. In 2012, another media sensation who relished breaking with GOP orthodoxies jumped in the presidential race late, only to flame out early. His name was Jon Huntsman.
Kasich shares far more than Huntsman’s willingness to scold fellow Republicans. Kasich has essentially imported both Huntsman’s campaign strategy (betting on New Hampshire) and his campaign team. Three of Huntsman’s old top advisers—strategists Fred Davis, John Weaver, and Matt David—are leading both Kasich’s campaign and his super PAC.
Weaver, I will note, served not just on Huntsman’s campaign, but also worked for McCain in 2000 and 2008.
But enough of the comparisons. NJ adds, as others have as well, that Kasich’s electability argument may come with a non-nominatibility clause:
Already, Kasich’s list of GOP apostasies is long.
He’s expanded Medicaid in Ohio as part of Obamacare, over GOP objections. He’s proposed a fracking tax, despite his party’s embrace of “drill, baby, drill.” He supports the Common Core educational standards and proposals for comprehensive immigration reform that rankle the Right. And, perhaps most importantly, he seems to relish the role of party scold.
“He is going out of his way to tell people he is no longer a conservative,” said Brent Bozell, a longtime conservative activist and chairman of ForAmerica, a tea party-style group. “Why should conservatives vote for him? He’s telling them to drop dead.”
One negative article (and, if you read the whole thing, it contains some counters to what I’ve quoted) is not going to change my mind, but the comparisons to Huntsman and McCain are troubling. Do we really need another ‘party scold’?