Despite predicting that Ohio Governor John Kasich would come in second in New Hampshire, I’ve been pretty skeptical of his chances to parlay that into much else. For one thing, New Hampshire (where contrarian politicians are often rewarded by independents who can vote in primaries) is almost uniquely suited to a man like Kasich.
It’s also hard to see how a politician who suggested conservatives who disagree with his Medicaid expansion should read the Bible, can win over conservative primary voters. And lastly, Kasich doesn’t seem well-suited to winning in the South, which means he may have to wait almost a month before he can be competitive in states like Michigan and Ohio.
But Kasich is doing everything he can not to squander this opportunity. And he’s something that we have come to associate with Rubio: He’s using a compelling and emotional biography to buttress his larger campaign message—and provide a rationale for his candidacy. Seriously, this is a really good bio spot:
Don’t be surprised if some evangelicals find this to be a very appealing message.
I’m still skeptical of Kasich’s chances. But I must confess that I’ve been impressed by his ability to seize a piece of turf that has been almost completely abandoned by other candidates who had a legitimate claim to it.
Kasich may now be the sole owner of the positive, optimistic space in the Republican primary field.
This is turf that [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] or Jeb Bush could have occupied, were it not for the fact that they had to pivot to running a slightly more angry and negative race, in order to keep up with the zeitgeist.
Rather than trying to ape Trump, however, Kasich simply ceded the angry vote to him. He’s shooting for an albeit slimmer chunk of the electorate—but one that he can potentially dominate: Voters who are looking for something positive.
Amazingly, Kasich has somehow emerged as the anti-Trump. He is, in essence, providing counterprogramming. And any time you can be the sole owner of political turf, it’s usually a good thing. If he can tone down his lecturing of Republicans, while simultaneously preserving his uplifting and inclusive message, he might just be able to prove the critics (like me) wrong.