John Kasich Isn’t Exactly The Huggable Centrist Of Lore
John Kasich is the sensible Republican’s last hope to win the party’s nomination — or so we’re supposed to believe.
Sure, he’s only won one state and was mathematically eliminated from primary competition over a month ago, but he still could make a play at the convention. Besides, he has that all important quality of “electability.” Just check the head-to-head polls with Hillary Clinton.
He’s not a fire-breathing social conservative who spent the entirety of his short career in the Senate pissing off all of his colleagues.
He’s not a raging populist who terrifies both the party establishment and the conservative movement alike.
Kasich is just a warm-hearted, center-right governor of a battleground state. Just the kind of politician the party needs to win in November.
Except he has hardly any chance of winning the nomination — convention shenanigans or not. And, more importantly, he’s not quite the huggable, moderate governor of legend.
According to most of those people lucky to know him, Kasich is rather hard to get along with. A March New York Times report records the bewilderment many of the Ohio governor’s colleagues have at seeing him assume the image of a super civil, conciliatory presidential candidate.
“If you’re not on the bus, we will run you over with the bus. I’m not kidding,” he told political opponents earlier in his gubernatorial term.
“I think a lot of people are kind of scratching their heads saying, ‘Where did this John Kasich come from?'” Ohio House Democratic minority leader Fred Strahorn told The New York Times.
Many of the legislators interviewed, even those who were counted among Kasich’s strongest allies, told the Times Kasich was an irritable man with a quick temper.
The paper of record did briefly allude to the story of Kasich ranting about a cop who pulled over the governor for speeding before a meeting of state employees. “He’s an idiot!” he shrieked of the offending police officer.
Even outside of the political sphere, Kasich has a reputation for his rudeness. In the late 1990s, he was horrified by the critically acclaimed film “Fargo.” The then-congressman went on a crusade to make sure his local Blockbuster took it off its shelves — thereby trying to rob his fellow citizens the chance to enjoy the Coen Brothers classic.
What kind of man gets that upset by Fargo?
But what might make him more upset than a black comedy about a bungled kidnapping is tough questions from reporters. On the 2016 campaign trail, Kasich has frequently lost his cool when journalists ask him questions he’d rather not answer. Last week, he even snatched away a reporter’s recorder after being asked why he’s only won his home state. (RELATED: Kasich Gets Frustrated With Reporter, Grabs His Recorder)
While he has a reputation for being the most sensible Republican out there, Kasich has a long history of uttering gaffes that would make even Donald Trump shake his head. Let’s just take a look at this cycle.
In September, he showed off his love for Hispanics by saying he always leaves a nice note for the Latina maids at hotels. A month after that comment, he said anyone who would have problems with his cuts to social security should “get over it.” In February, Kasich praised all the women who came out of the kitchen to vote for him during his first political run in the 1970s.
While campaigning in New York, he took it upon himself to condescendingly explain Bible stories to Talmudic scholars.
His most covered gaffe which might have not caused much consternation among the Right but drove liberals up the wall was when he advised a young woman worried about the (much exaggerated) college rape epidemic to avoid parties with alcohol. Not really a comment that will bother conservatives, but it certainly dented the image of the Republican liberals can love.
But what might’ve dented Kasich’s suburban-friendly image is Trump’s takedown of his eating habits. “Kasich eating” is one of the top Google searches in relation to the Ohio governor, and the results don’t offer up very appetizing images of the presidential hopeful. (RELATED: Trump On Kasich: ‘I Have Never Seen A Human Being Eat In Such A Disgusting Fashion’)
The subject that might hurt the lovable centrist persona the most is Kasich’s actual policies. Kasich has positioned himself as someone who leans left on the social issues dominating this race. For instance, he’s endorsed legalizing illegal aliens and said he’s championed Black Lives Matter issues. He also rarely brings up issues like abortion and gay marriage.
However, Kasich is well within the confines of mainstream conservatism when it comes to fiscal and foreign policy. Going back to his supposed gaffe on entitlement reform, the Ohioan is basically on the same page with Paul Ryan when it comes to the issue. He believes the government must make cuts to social security and Medicaid.
This is a popular idea among movement conservatives, but wildly unpopular among the electorate. According to a Pew study, 69 percent of Americans think it is more important to keep these programs the way they are than reducing the deficit. This playing out in the 2016 election. The current Republican front-runner is promising to not make any cuts to these programs, to the cheers of his many supporters. Both Democratic presidential candidates not only pledge to not cut these entitlements, they vow to expand them if they get into the White House.
On foreign policy, Kasich is definitely the most hawkish on the issue among the remaining Republican candidates. He supports a no-fly zone in Syria. He wants to “punch the Russians in the nose” (whatever that means). He wants to send a large ground troop contingent back into the Middle East. He’s even indicated he’s open to a pre-emptive attack of Iran.
These positions make Kasich acceptable to neoconservatives and others among the old guard of Republican foreign policy. Though after Iraq and Libya, it seems like the American public might be a little hesitant to embrace a doctrine similar to that of the George W. Bush era.
The New York Times and other institutions of the establishment may have taken a liking to Kasich as the GOP’s last shot at respectability, but the persona he’s worked so hard to craft this primary may collapse like a giant pancake meeting the governor’s mouth.