John Kasich: The Man in the Middle

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By Joseph Hendricks

If you knew what Sununu.” New Hampshirans love this “punny” phrase which hints at the widespread knowledge of their former United States Representative and Senator John E. Sununu. Sununu now headlines a growing list of influential political figures, and Charles Barkley, who have recently endorsed Ohio Governor John Kasich for the Republican Presidential nomination. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott from Mississippi have endorsed Governor Kasich despite the presence of other deep-south Governors in the race. The recent number of significant endorsements begs the question: What exactly do Sununu and other key endorsers know about this “lesser-known” Presidential candidate?

Largely a sentiment stemming from their distaste of Barack Obama’s presidency, the majority of Republican primary voters prefer a candidate with a more extensive resume than Obama had upon election. Governor Kasich has had considerable experience in various political facets. In 1978, Kasich was elected to the Ohio State Senate as the state’s youngest recorded senator  at 26 years of age. Then-Senator Kasich immediately set himself apart by refusing to accept a pay raise. Kasich was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1981, and ascended to Chairman of the Budget Committee when Republicans gained control of the chamber following the 1994 elections. One of Kasich’s strongest positives is the role he played as “the chief architect” of the nation’s last balanced budget in 1997. Kasich also served on the House Armed Services Committee for the entirety of his 18 year tenure in Congress giving him invaluable foreign policy experience. Following a brief stint in the private sector, primarily at Lehman Brothers, Kasich won Ohio’s governorship in 2010 and was reelected in 2014. Similar to his Congressional record, Kasich established his budget prowess by transitioning Ohio’s budget from an estimated 6 to 8 billion dollar hole to a current surplus of 2 billion dollars.

Kasich’s congressional career is remembered for his across-the-aisle approach of moderateness, a characteristic that he has upheld during his service as Ohio’s governor. Governor Kasich’s platforms are predictably unpredictable because, in the words of the Governor himself, “the Republican party is my vehicle, not my master.” Kasich does, however, prescribe to some traditional conservative platforms. His fiscal conservatism is apparent from his roles balancing state and federal budgets, and he stakes out conservative positions against abortion (although with exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother) and as a defense-hawk who would attack ISIS as well. However, Governor Kasich’s moderate approach on remaining platforms sets him apart from the rest of the Republican field. Governor Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare has been  criticized by many conservatives, and has opened the door to attacks from his primary opponents. However, Kasich insists that the expansion merely allowed him to bring back the state’s own tax revenue which he used to assist the drug addicted, mentally ill, and the working poor. Kasich consistently addresses the criticism by invoking his faith-based sense of duty to help the poor: “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

Equally as abhorrent to many conservatives, Kasich defends Common Core educational standards and promotes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the United States, saying, “hunting down immigrants is not what America is.” During his Congressional service, Kasich promoted the Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 which translated to an “F” on the NRA’s legislative scorecard. Kasich has since stated that the intentions of the legislation were not met, and in order to combat mass-violence, he feels money should be allocated to assisting the mentally ill. Environmentally, as Governor of Ohio, Kasich has promoted “clean-coal technology,” opposed fracking, and Ohio’s emissions were reduced by 15% over the last 10 years. Governor Kasich has also received substantial attention from his answer during the Fox News Republican Presidential Debate regarding gay marriage. Although Kasich restated his belief in the integrity of heterosexual marriage, the Governor was adamant that respect and love are fundamental rights afforded to everyone, adding that he recently attended the same-sex marriage of a close friend.

Governor Kasich’s campaign and platforms revolve around respect for others and uplifting all members of society. While Kasich’s moderate platforms on most important issues are drawing the ire of the Republican Party’s far-right, the Governor’s moderate stances have yielded a recent popularity uptick. Kasich’s national poll numbers are increasing, and he is now polling third in New Hampshire. John Kasich’s campaign promotes moderate stances and bipartisan cooperation, and his success could set a precedent of moderation for national politics. Governor Robert Bentley has stated, “I realize that maybe the country has changed some of its attitudes about things. And I think John understands that too but can help get us back a little more to the center.” The American public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the nation’s politics, which is evident by Congress’ current approval rating: approximately 14% of American citizens approve of Congress’ actions while 82% disapprove. Although Governor Kasich is not running for a Congressional position, a moderate President who promotes bipartisanship could help abate the recently relentless grip of political polarization. Many expect that Kasich may be tapped as a Vice Presidential candidate in attempt to deliver Ohio in the general election. However, Governor Kasich insists he can win the Republican primary and Presidential election. Voters are starting to comprehend what Senator John E. Sununu knows – John Kasich is a common sense, optimistic candidate with a record of results.

Photo Credit: Deschutes County Republican Party

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