Like his taste in music, Kasich’s politics and personality are an eclectic mix that has put him out of step with the Republican party: elements of conservatism, liberalism, and populism mixed together with an infatuation with bipartisanship and a strain of moralism that annoys many conservatives but earns him strange new respect from some liberals.
While Kasich and his team insist he’s open to the possibility of running in a Republican primary, with or without Donald Trump in the race, his swing through New York has more the feel of an independent proto-presidential-campaign trip. Instead of jumping from coffeehouse to American Legion hall in New Hampshire, Kasich bounces from green room to green room in Manhattan for six on-camera interviews: MSNBC (twice), CNN, CNBC, and websites Now This News and TheStreet.com. Kasich attends a town hall at Stuyvesant High School; he was invited by a young 2016 campaign volunteer named Hugo Smith and his father (BuzzFeed editor in chief Ben Smith). Conspicuously absent from his schedule is any appearance on Fox News, where Kasich hosted his own show and filled in for Bill O’Reilly from 2001 to 2007.
Whenever Kasich has popped up on TV over the past year, he has tended to discuss issues that put him at odds with Republicans—gun control, a no-strings-attached bill to protect from deportation illegal immigrants who arrived as minors, his opposition to GOP legislation to partially repeal Obamacare, and an unapologetic defense of his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio under Obamacare.