Candidate Profile: John Kasich
Ohio: Known for Christmas desserts, astronauts and swinging presidential elections. But although the state has produced eight presidents (all of them Republican), no nominees have been successful in White house bids since Warren G. Harding won in 1958. Ohio’s governor John Kasich looks to change that precedent; the governor ranks 9th out of the remaining GOP candidates and has gained traction with moderates Republicans and Democrats alike. After all, the man who brought LeBron back to town knows at least something about governance. Who is John Kasich?
John Kasich is a former U.S. congressman (R-OH) and the current governor of Ohio. The grandson of immigrants, Kasich grew up near Pittsburgh and moved to Ohio for college, where he received a degree in political science from Ohio State University. After working various jobs in policy research and administrative assistance, Kasich was elected to the Ohio Senate -- at 26, the youngest person ever in the position. From 1983-2001, Kasich further served Ohio in the U.S. House of Representatives, chairing the House Budget Committee during his tenure. Although he formed an exploratory committee during the 2000 presidential election, Kasich ultimately dropped out before the first straw poll and instead spent several years hosting Heartland with John Kasich on Fox. Since 2011, Kasich has been once more serving Ohio, this time as its Governor. He and his wife Karen (a former PR executive) live in the state with twin daughters.
Fun fact: While at OSU, Kasich wrote a letter of admiration to then-President Nixon. The President responded by granting Kasich a 20-minute meeting.
What is this candidate's campaign theme?
“John Kasich’s for us.”
“It’s a bad agreement,” Governor Kasich said of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran to a crowd at a forum in September, adding “there are so many very poor parts of this thing.” Despite his reservations, Kasich has also criticized Republican candidates who want to “rip up” the deal, instead maintaining that the United States ought to ensure Iran “cross[es] every ‘t’ and dot[s] every ‘i’.” Kasich has yet to propose either a replacement to the deal or mechanisms to hold Iran accountable, but pledged to analyze the rogue state’s actions on day one of his presidency to determine if any changes ought to be made.
Kasich calls fighting radical Islam the nation’s toughest foreign policy challenge and has attacked President Obama for relying on air power to weaken the Islamic State. “You can’t solve anything just with air power,” he told Meet the Press. In the same interview, Kasich pledged to put boots on the ground in Iraq, having previously called for the U.S. to form a coalition with NATO and Arab states to battle the group.
As Ukraine defended itself against Russian aggression last winter, Kasich urged the United States to provide aid to Ukrainians. “For the life of me, I cannot understand why we are not giving the Ukrainians [the ability] to defend themselves against Putin and the Russians,” he said at a campaign stop in New Hampshire. “They’ve been through hell over the course of their existence, and we’ve got to let them fight for themselves.” The governor further refused to cooperate with the Russian military in the wake of the nation’s decision to conduct airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, condemning Russia for “propping up” dictator Bashar Al-Assad (whom the U.S. has been trying to remove for several years).
A self-described “strong, emotional supporter of Israel,” Kasich created controversy when he attended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress last March (and also visited with pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee). In an interview with The Washington Post, Kasich defended Netanyahu’s speech and emphasized the importance of America’s alliance with Israel: “You can't separate this U.S.-Israel relationship,” he told The Washington Post.
Breaking with much of the GOP pack, Kasich backs a path to legal citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. “If they've been law-abiding over a period of time,” he told CNN in August, “they ought to be able to stay here.” In the past, Kasich supported a bill that would eliminate birthright citizenship, but has since shifted his position. He does, however, favor a border fence and a “crackdown” on illegal immigration.
Kasich has garnered criticism for using the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid in Ohio, an implementation the governor achieved by vetoing the Ohio legislature’s ban on the policy. When recently confronted about how the program puts him at odds with conservatives, Kasich pointed to the Bible: “There’s a book. It’s got a new part and an old part. They put it together. It’s a remarkable book. If you don’t have one, I’ll buy you one. And it talks about how we treat the poor.” Kasich does believe in repealing Obamacare, provided there is “accommodation” for Medicaid expansion.
Kasich’s tax plan brings him back to the right: he proposes lowering the personal and corporate income rates, consolidating eight tax brackets into three (with 28 percent at the top), dropping dividend tax rates and capital gains to 15 percent, eliminating the death tax, and allowing for full business expenses. The plan also includes a budget reform that would allow states to effectively run their own entitlement programs. This week, Kasich, joining most of his GOP rivals, signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, promising to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”
A tenet of Kasich’s economic reform plan involves downsizing the Department of Education. Over 100 current federal programs would be merged into four state grants, for use by state and local governments. As governor, Kasich has expanded charter schools, increased school vouchers, implemented performance pay for teachers, and evaluated educators based on standardized test scores. In a deviation from conservative ideology, the Governor also supports Common Core, provided standards are set and curricula written by statewide or local boards.
When recently asked about access to abortion, Kasich responded, “Obviously, it’s the law of the land now, and we live with the law of the land.” Yet while he urges colleagues to follow the precedent set by Roe v. Wade, the governor has consistently supported anti-abortion measures in Ohio, helping the legislature restrict and discourage the procedure. As a result, the number of surgical clinics providing abortions in the state has dropped from 14 to nine. Kasich also said he would back a bill banning abortion in cases of Down Syndrome, although he does oppose bans in cases of rape, incest or preserving the life of the mother.
Following the Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage in June, Kasich remarked to CBS that “we all need to take a deep breath.” Echoing his position on abortion, he reminded conservatives that gay marriage is the law of the land; when asked about marriage equality and religious liberty at August’s presidential debate, he told moderator Megyn Kelly, “We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have…God gives me unconditional love. I’m going to give to it my family and my friends and the people around me.” It is unclear how the governor would respond to cases of private businesses refusing service to customers for religious reasons, although he did tell USAToday that Kentucky clerk Kim Davis (jailed for refusing marriage licenses to homosexual couples) “should follow the law.”
In August, Kasich told NBC that human activity impacts the environment but that he didn’t want to “destroy people’s jobs based on some theory that’s not proven.” Following controversy regarding the comments, a Kasich spokesperson said the Governor “believes [climate change] is real and that humans play a significant factor and we need to do something about it.” Kasich has yet to specify exactly what ought to be done, but the campaign website declares his intention to secure energy independence by approving the Keystone Pipeline.
Is he a controversial figure? Why?
Like fellow candidates Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, many Republicans consider Kasich too moderate to capture the conservative base. A poll conducted at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference found that 40.2 percent of attendees regard Kasich’s Medicaid expansion as a “deal-breaker.” Prominent conservative blogger Erick Erickson, a harsh critic of GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, claimed he would vote for Trump over Kasich, who Erickson believes is “not fit…to be one heartbeat away from the presidency” for using Christianity in his defense of the expansion. On the left side of the aisle, Kasich faces a lawsuit from Planned Parenthood, who is suing Ohio for a new budget bill that would shut down more abortion clinics. Still other pundits and analysts have taken the governor to task for his “cranky” attitude; Fred Barnes, influential editor of Weekly Standard, noted Kasich could be the GOP nominee “if he stops acting somewhat like a jerk.”
What's one humorous or summarizing quote from this presidential hopeful?
“Economic growth is the key. Economic growth is the key to everything. But once you have economic growth, it is important that we reach out to people who live in the shadows, the people who don’t seem to ever think that they get a fair deal. And that includes people in our minority community; that includes people who feel as though they don’t have a chance to move up. You know, America is a miracle country. And we have to restore the sense that the miracle will apply to you. Each and every one of the people in this country who’s watching tonight, lift everybody, unite everybody and build a stronger United States of America again. It will be and can be done.” (From August’s debate.)
Photo Credit: Ohio Politics