Throughout the debate, Kasich essentially cribbed Bush’s “right to rise” message with his own flourishes. “Lift everybody, unite everybody, and build a stronger United States of America again. It will be, it can be done,” Kasich said. He reiterated his opposition to gay marriage, while outlining his personal tolerance for those with differences. “We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect, and let them share in this great American dream that we have.” After outlining the state’s record of economic growth, he concluded his closing statement by saying: “People have hope again in Ohio!”
Kasich sounded like a happy warrior on stage, a far cry from his reputation for irritability. And he stayed mostly on message during his speaking time, an impressive feat for a politician who’s known to go off on distracting tangents.
Bush made no major blunders, but he looked out of his element at times. It was clear that his free-wheeling style and aversion to the choreography of politics was preventing him from making a bigger mark. He stumbled (again) over a question about his brother’s decision to invade Iraq, clumsily pivoting to Iran at the end. He wasn’t as forceful on his key issue—immigration reform—as he could have been, especially with Donald Trump standing next to him on stage. “He seemed a little pale, a little flat,” Fox News moderator Chris Wallace said in the network’s post-debate coverage.