With 16 Republicans now in the race (no typo), why should you pay attention to the latest arrival? Three reasons.
1. If Bush wins the nomination, as seems increasingly likely, I think this guy is the favorite to be his number two. The GOP would strongly prefer to have a Latino on the ticket, but Jeb himself kinda sorta checks that box so he can afford to go the aging-midwestern-white-guy route for VP. Kasich has executive experience at the state level, legislative experience as a former congressman, and he can probably deliver Ohio to the GOP, one of a few must-have states (another is Bush’s home state of Florida) in 2016. As a matter of pure electoral math, Bush/Kasich probably makes more sense than any other Bush ticket.
2. Every national primary needs a Jon Huntsman figure who’ll sneer at conservatives and at whom conservatives will sneer right back. That’s Kasich. They share a common strategy, betting everything on a surprise win in New Hampshire, and they have at least three key advisors in common, including noted tea-party enemy John Weaver. Kasich, in fact, has been more combative with his right-wing detractors than Huntsman ever was, despite the latter’s reputation. They’re peas in a pod. If you won’t take my word for it, take hers:
#Kasich roll-out reminds me so much of my dad's four years ago. Same team, same timing, similar strategy. Hope it ends better for him.
— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) July 21, 2015
He’s a moderate who seems to enjoy telling critics to his right how ill informed they are, which leads Harry Enten to describe him as a “Jeb Bush in Jon Huntsman’s clothing.” Makes me wonder if Kasich’s legacy in this campaign might be as the guy who made Jeb Bush comparatively palatable to conservatives due to his own much greater antagonism. Huntsman had a similar effect on Romney’s standing in the 2012 race, I think. No matter how much you hated Mitt, you had to admit that he didn’t seem to dislike tea partiers as much as Huntsman did.
3. There are boatloads of stories in political media this week about Kasich’s famously short temper, which, in some of the anecdotes about him, seems to have less to do with being quick to anger than with being a — let’s use the word “jerk” since this is a family blog. Reason accuses him of “unbearable smugness” and backs it up. Erick Erickson, vowing to support even Chris Christie or Donald Trump as the GOP’s nominee, finds Kasich a bridge too far — even as the bottom half of the ticket:
John Kasich has over the years evolved in a megalomaniacal ***hole and I have no use for him or the campaign team that brought us Huntsman 2012.
I will not pee on the GOP, let alone vote for President in 2016 if God and the Republicans decide to punish us with John Kasich as the Presidential nominee or Vice Presidential nominee…
If the Republican Party were to decide it worth elevating to the national stage the man who said Jesus told him to support Obamacare as President or Vice President, we would deserve Hillary Clinton as President.
Screw you John Kasich, and the pompous ass you rode in on.
I’m morbidly curious now to see his famously short fuse in action. Will he ignite at a town hall when a voter challenges him on Medicaid? Will he get nasty with some of the other prickly candidates in the field, like Chris Christie or Rand Paul, onstage at the debates? If he’s smart, he’ll go after Trump hammer and tongs to get his name out there quickly. Perry’s been trying hard to do that but I think he’s handicapped by his 2012 performance and by the fact that he’s simply too nice a guy to meet Trump on equal terms of nastiness. Kasich might not be. Calling him a moron at the first debate might have unpredictable results. Given that he’s polling right now in the low single digits, what does he have to lose?