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July 22, 2015

Is Sweet 16 Good Enough for Kasich?

Ohio’s governor is the 16th Republican candidate to announce a presidential run.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced his bid for the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday, becoming the 16th — and likely final — major candidate in the 2016 race. Can the 63-year-old two-term governor gain traction?

Kasich brings to the race more experience both in Washington and in executive leadership than many of his competitors. He served as a congressman from 1983-2001, chairing the House Budget Committee when Congress last managed a balanced budget in the ‘90s. After a stint as a Fox News host and investment banker, he took the helm in Ohio in 2011, steering its economic and fiscal revival — an $8 billion deficit became a $2 billion surplus. He’s worked to cut the income tax across the board (from 6.2% to 4.9%), and he wants to phase it out altogether. He eliminated the death tax.

Under Kasich’s leadership, Ohio’s 2.1% economic growth outpaced all other Great Lakes states, and the state’s unemployment rate fell from 9.1% to 5.2%. Earlier this month, Kasich explained his basic plan for economic recovery at the national level: “What I’m going to focus on is the business investment. This is the single biggest thing, in my judgment, that would help us to overcome wage stagnation.”

Unfortunately, Kasich’s conservatism isn’t always thorough or consistent. For example, he’s a proponent of Barack Obama’s Common Core standards that many conservatives see as a federal intrusion into education. He also largely offset his tax cuts with tax hikes in other areas, including raising the state sales tax from 5.75% to 6.25%.

But perhaps his most troubling move was that he circumvented the Buckeye State’s Republican-controlled legislature to expand Medicaid in Ohio as part of ObamaCare. He did so after the legislature rejected the expansion, and after he ran for election in 2010 as an ObamaCare opponent.

“Medicaid’s quality of care, access to physicians and outcomes continue to decline,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “Meanwhile, Medicaid spending will consume 49% of Ohio general revenue funds in 2016, 51% in 2017.”

Of his expansion, Kasich took on a decidedly “compassionate conservative” tone, telling his “hard-hearted” critics, “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor.”

Democrats are the ones who want to turn Jesus into a socialist, claiming His instruction to care for the poor applies to government as opposed to Christians. It’s sorely disappointing to see a Republican parroting that statist thinking.

Kasich doesn’t personally practice what he preaches, either. In 2008, the most recent tax return Kasich has released publicly, he made charitable contributions of $27,326. That sounds generous, but it’s less than 2% of his $1.4 million income and a fair bit below average for his income group.

Moreover, Kasich has made other excuses for the Medicaid expansion — from states’ rights to Medicaid being totally separate from ObamaCare (it’s not). The Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein has a good breakdown of each excuse and why they fail to hold up.

Kasich’s biggest strength might be the state from which he hails and where the GOP convention will occur. Ohio is, of course, a critical swing state, and Kasich won re-election in 2014 with 86 of 88 counties and 64% of the vote. Then again, he defeated a particularly weak and scandal-ridden Democrat candidate, and his campaign team features some of the same guys that brought us Jon Huntsman’s bash-the-GOP message in 2012.

As for his reportedly fiery temperament, Reason’s Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes, “If you talk to Ohioans — and Ohio is my home state, so I do — you’ll find that most people don’t really like Kasich, not even Republicans. They might like his stance on spending, or taxes, or abortion, but Kasich himself? Arrogant. Condescending. Manipulative.

We in our humble shop are looking forward to getting those characteristics out of the White House.

In the end, Kasich doesn’t bring anything attractive to the table that other candidates don’t have, and he brings some negatives that make a victory unlikely. He’s a long shot, and deservedly so.

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