Exactly one year ago today, on March 16, 2015, Time ran a cover story on one of America’s most famous political dynasties, the Bush family. Jeb Bush had recently announced his intentions to run for the Presidency, and the predominant thought was that the former Florida governor could be the third consecutive Bush to represent the GOP in the White House. He had the money, he had the support, but he had one unexpected problem: Donald Trump.
In the early stages of the Republican presidential race, before any formal voting, Jeb Bush had very little patience for the more unorthodox, angry, politically incorrect campaign that Trump was (and still is) running. Bush, who is much more reserved and introverted than his brother (I understand H.W. is more like W. than Jeb, as well), condemned Trump and tried to push a more traditional agenda, famously calling Trump a “chaos candidate.”
Within a few weeks, Jeb was toast. A heavy favorite, and someone whom I think would be potentially leading the field if not for Trump, was out of the race just like that. However, this article is not about the fall of Jeb Bush. It is about John Kasich. However, to understand how Kasich has steadily become the Republican parties “last hope,” the story of Jeb Bush must be understood.
Jeb Bush, along with Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and many other traditional politicians, tried to tackle the unconventional Trump campaign as if he were another lunatic anti-establishment candidate – i.e. how they would’ve treated Ted Cruz if not for Trump. What makes Trump different though is his self-funding which allows him to say whatever he wants whenever he wants and an ego that forces and permits him to belittle his opponents (Bush, Rubio, etc.) until they have no support and suspend their campaigns. Trump is rapidly gaining the anti-Washington vote, as well.
Kasich however, has been a different story. The Ohio governor has stuck to a plan that quite honestly, would not have worked in any other election year. He has a quirky, fatherly demeanor that is wildly different than that of Ted Cruz (the master orator) or Trump (the angry, egotistic outsider). But what Kasich has done, masterly I might add, is avoid the circus. Jeb fell victim to the Trump insult barrage, and Marco Rubio lost the respect of voters when he began to respond to Trump like Trump. Kasich played it differently; he’s been holding back.
Obviously anyone who wants to be President needs to own a national name and a powerhouse personality, and Kasich is starting to show that he fits the mold. To many though, it is astounding that the governor, who was polling at roughly 1% for months when bigger names were still in the running, is one of just three candidates remaining after March 15th. What’s even more shocking is that the only remaining candidates are the two most anti-establishment! John Kasich, who flew under the radar for months, is now about to get the backing of many GOP leaders.
So who is John Kasich?
First and foremost, Kasich is the sitting governor of Ohio, and he just won the “winner-take-all” Ohio Republican Primary. His gubernatorial claims to fame are turning the Ohio budget from a deficit to a surplus, and diminishing the state’s unemployment numbers since his first election in 2010. Before his term as governor, Kasich was a very successful congressman representing Ohio in Washington for 18 years. Kasich loves to mention that he served as Chairman of the House Budget Committee from 1995-2001, the last time the Federal Government had a budget surplus.
Kasich is running on a platform of financial conservatism. He wants to create jobs for the common American, and he believes the best way to do that is by tightening the leash on federal spending and tax rates. He is a huge supporter for American energy independence and multi-faceted energy expansion. He has a mixed record on social issues, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Kasich has stated that Kim Davis should have done her job (issuing marriage licenses to both straight and same-sex couples) in Kentucky, received an “F” rating from the NRA when he compromised with then-sitting President Bill Clinton on an assault rifle ban, and doesn’t support the shutdown of Planned Parenthood like Trump.
Kasich’s campaign is not a wild conservative one like Cruz’s, and it is not an exciting rally cry for upset Americans like Trump’s. It is a campaign that focuses on Kasich’s inarguably good track record, on a simple plan to cut taxes, federal spending, and regulation, and to create jobs in the private sector. It is worth noting that Kasich served as a managing director at the investment bank Lehman Brothers, so he has ties to the private sector, but that is something some people think leads to a better understanding of economics and fiscal decision-making.
What sets Kasich apart more than anything though is that he appears to be a true President. He is, in his words, a family man who has fought his entire life to make America a place where everyone has the opportunity to be successful if they are willing to put in the work. He worked to make deals in Washington. He has been the governor during a great economic turnaround in Ohio and understands the role that innovation and green energy solutions are going to play in America’s future growth and economic well-being. Kasich understands that Americans want to work to provide themselves and their families the best lives possible, and he simply wants to allow that to happen.
I mentioned earlier that Kasich is running a strategic campaign that would essentially be impossible without the presence of Trump. The reason I say that is because well, Kasich actually cannot win the nomination, not right away anyway. To be the Republican nominee, GOP bylaws require either 1,237 delegates to be won, and for a candidate to have won at least 50% of delegates in at least 8 states. Kasich cannot win those 1,237 delegates before the national convention in Cleveland this summer. This does not rule Kasich out though. Kasich is holding out for what is known as “a brokered convention.”
The way a nominee is selected is through a delegate vote at the Republican Convention. Essentially, each primary leads to a number certain delegates being assigned to vote for a candidate at the national convention. To win the official nomination a candidate must have a majority, which equates to 1,237 delegates. If no one candidate has that majority number, the delegates vote again.
What is amazing though is that these delegates, who are tied to vote for their assigned candidate in the first round of voting, can vote for whomever they want if the convention is not won in the first round. Because these delegates are actual human beings who are incredibly involved in the Republican Party, many political pundits believe that Donald Trump would lose in a second round of voting. Who would pick up these unhinged delegates? Many assume that the candidate that the establishment backs will get the new delegates, and that could theoretically be John Kasich.
This is an incredibly strange election cycle, and I ultimately think that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. He has run away with the lead, and many think that if he gets to the convention with by far the most delegates (still under the 1,237-delegate mark) than the party leaders wouldn’t ignore the voice of the voters by A) selecting a distant third place Kasich, or B) selecting another candidate without establishment support (Cruz). Pundits believe that the GOP leaders will need to make the decision to either have a polarizing outsider (Trump) be their nominee, or to ignore the votes of Americans and essentially “blow up” the party altogether by bending rules to give Kasich the nomination.
Regardless of what happens, and it’s downright impossible to predict at this point, John Kasich has transformed from a fringe candidate into one of the Republican parties most respected members. A calm demeanor in the height of political madness, an excellent track record, and a campaign that is playing the ultimate long game have left Kasich in a position to inherit a shot at being either President or Vice President in 2016 or 2020. Kasich is a career politician, but he has shown that he is more than just another peg in the machine. From here on out, his fate will be decided by not only the nations voters, but also by a select few Republican leaders. How fitting.