Desperation, frustration, or both? John Kasich, who has gained almost no traction at all in the 2016 Republican presidential primary fight, appears ready to take off the gloves. Without naming names, Kasich went on the attack last night at a rally in Ohio, taking on Donald Trump and Ben Carson and what he sees as demagoguery in contrast to his record of accomplishment:
The governor known by Ohioans for his periodic blunt assessments and sharp-tongue criticism of opponents suddenly has brought the same tack to his lagging Republican presidential campaign.
Kasich had been reluctant to criticize others, even Democrat Hillary Clinton, while on the campaign trail, portraying himself as the “grown-up in the room” above the name-calling.
But, that changed on Tuesday afternoon in his hometown of Westerville, where the newly aggressive candidate called out leading GOP candidates and proclaimed, “I’m done being polite and listening to this nonsense.”
“I want you to know I’m fed up. I’m sick and tired of listening to this nonsense and I’m going to have to call it like it is in this race,” Kasich said during seven minutes of remarks that shoved aside his kinder-and-gentler tactics of the past four months.
The highlight of this clip may be in the final minute or so, when Kasich uses a Back To The Future reference against Trump, who claimed credit for a deal Kasich made with Ford four years ago. Clearly, Kasich has concluded that his attempt to use a calm and measured approach to campaigning was a poor choice in this cycle. This looks more like a if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em strategy.
That may end up distracting from Kasich’s record as governor, which turns out to be best among the gubernatorial candidates on the debate stage, according to the Washington Post:
In the first Republican presidential debate, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush introduced himself by boasting that “during my eight years, 1.3 million jobs were created. We left the state better off.” Gov. Chris Christie talked up his state creating 192,000 private sector jobs on his watch: “We have a lot of work to do in New Jersey,” he said, “but I am darn proud we’ve brought our state back.”
Every former governor running for president this year has spoken similarly about his state’s economic record. But a detailed analysis reveals that when you compare those records apples-to-apples, perhaps one candidate stands out more than the others: Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Under Kasich, Ohio has performed far better than you would expect, given historical trends, in reducing unemployment and increasing incomes for residents. Those strengths distinguish Kasich, who is now serving his second term, among the field of seven governors currently seeking the Republican and Democratic nominations for the White House.
Even if an aggressive, combative approach does end up distracting from Kasich’s record, his less pugilistic tone wasn’t succeeding in providing any focus on it either. Why not try something new, especially when it appears there’s nothing left to lose by doing so? “Desperate times, desperate measures,” says the Toledo Blade, and it’s difficult to dispute that analysis:
That’s not to say that Kasich is necessarily incorrect in his analyses, but it’s coming pretty late in the day for his candidacy. The Blade’s assumption that tonight’s debate is a make-or-break moment for Kasich rings true. The Ohio governor barely qualifies for the adult table in tonight’s debate, after “peaking” in late August and early September. Part of this may be attributable to Kasich’s attempts to disguise his authentic nature in favor of a projection of calm leadership, but if any one lesson emerges from the 2016 primary cycle in both parties, it’s that authenticity matters.
It may be desperate, but will it work? Other candidates have tried frontal attacks on Trump, only to lose ground afterward, Rand Paul in particular. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have treaded more carefully and still remain in the hunt. If Kasich goes all out tonight, he’d better score a knockout, because he’s not going to win on points — and even with that, a knockout might just clear the path for someone else who is more authentically likable, like Carson or Rubio. Desperate times, indeed.