John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Why Kasich Should Run

Posted on April 27, 2015
Governor John Kasich.jpg

"Governor John Kasich" by Office of Ohio Governor John R. Kasich - Wikipedia:Contact us/Photo submission. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

(This originally appeared in The Hill)

Is an already crowded field for the presidency in 2016 a barrier to entry for Ohio Gov. John Kasich?

I don’t think so. In fact, it could help Kasich by lowering the amount of money necessary to compete.

Right now, the GOP field is divided into two camps: Jeb Bush and everybody else. Nobody in the current field can compete with the Bush financial and organizational network; these candidates can only hope to be the alternative should the former Florida governor falter.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is the latest flavor of the month, and he sits atop the “everybody else” primary. But primary voters are a fickle lot, and they blow with the latest earned media.

Of the announced candidates, nobody can rival Kasich’s long experience in delivering positive policy results.

I remember when Kasich was a backbencher on the House Budget Committee, working with Minnesota Democrat Tim Penny to produce a detailed plan to balance the federal budget. Republicans had been in the minority for close to four decades, and many resisted Kasich’s bipartisan efforts to specify programs for elimination. Why put a target on our back, they reasoned?

But Kasich, the son of a mailman, argued that Republicans could only lead if they were straight with the American people. When the GOP swept into the majority in 1994, Kasich followed up by producing the first balanced budget in a generation.

Shockingly enough, the Kasich plan worked, and the federal government actually ran such high surpluses that then-Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, wondered publicly what would happen if the U.S. actually were to pay off all of its debts.

Then, Kasich left Congress to run for president, terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11, and those surpluses disappeared.

What Kasich implemented in Congress, a pro-growth tax agenda coupled with some common-sense restraints to spending, hasn’t been replicated since he departed Washington.

To prove what he did back in the ’90s wasn’t a fluke, Kasich did the same thing as governor in his home state of Ohio. He turned a huge deficit into a surplus of a nice size by implementing economic growth policies while trimming unnecessary spending.

Kasich did it by being alternatively confrontational and conciliatory to his political opposition. He easily won reelection, garnering 24 percent of the black vote and a huge chunk of the labor vote.

Kasich has an ability to communicate to blue-collar workers because he comes from a family of blue-collar workers. He was able to attract black voters because he listens closely to their concerns and does his best to be responsive to them.

As Ohio’s governor, he hasn’t necessarily been a doctrinaire conservative, which could prove to be a liability to some of the GOP’s more ideological primary voters. He decided to move forward on expanding Medicaid in the context of ObamaCare, to the annoyance of many in Washington. He angered the oil and gas industry by proposing an increase in fees for fracking in his state. He wanted to increase tobacco taxes.

On the utility of smaller government, he memorably said that God wasn’t going to ask you how much you shrank the government when you reached the pearly gates. Instead, he would ask about how you helped the poor.

Kasich governs as a conservative, but neither he nor his constituents are angry about it. In fact, Ohioans think that their governor would make a fine president, and in recent state polls, he easily leads the crowded field.

Of course, it all comes down to money, as Kasich himself has stated on more than one occasion. If he can raise $20 million to $30 million, he will enter the race and be very, very competitive.

Here’s to hoping the governor has a good fundraiser. I think Kasich would make a terrific addition to an already strong Republican field of challengers.

Subscribe to the Feehery Theory Newsletter, exclusively on Substack.
Learn More