As Republican presidential hopefuls converge on New Hampshire for a “Leadership Summit” this weekend, evidence that another strong contender for the GOP nomination, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, is preparing to launch a serious campaign is mounting.
Kasich, 62, has said he is considering a run; he’s been raising his profile with national media interviews and appearances. This week attorney E. Mark Braden, a Kasich supporter and former chief counsel to the Republican National Committee, incorporated a non-profit called New Day for America with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office.
The non-profit would not be a campaign committee per se. But once it’s certified by the Internal Revenue Service, it could begin collecting donations that Kasich would then use to fund the cross-country traveling essential to preparing for a presidential run.
“I think when people hear what the message is, about ‘everybody deserves a chance, everybody needs to be helped,’ I think that’s an American message. I think that’s a message that people relate to,” Kasich said last month in a meeting with reporters.
Campaign watchers have been wondering if Kasich is ready to take the plunge. As the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato noted in a recent analysis of the 2016 race, for Kasich, “time [is] running out for him to get real as a candidate.”
While not particularly well-known at the national level, Kasich would bring the weight of experience to the race, something many current candidates simply can’t match. Three of the high-profile Republicans in the race so far – Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – are first-term senators.
By comparison, Kasich is not only the twice-elected governor of Ohio, he also served nine terms in the House of Representatives and rose to the chairmanship of the powerful House Budget Committee. Also significant is that Ohio is a key presidential battleground state. President Obama managed to win it in 2008 and 2012, but it went for Republican George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.
Kasich’s record, as Sabato points out, can be a bit of a double-edged sword. Decades in elected office have left him with a long record for opponents to scrutinize and criticize.
He is also out of step with the party’s base on some major issues. He supports the Common Core educational standard deplored by many Republican primary voters. He also supported the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, which is anathema to many on the right.
Kasich will make appearances this weekend in two key primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina. In New Hampshire, he’ll attend the “First in the Nation Leadership Summit,” sponsored by the state Republican Party and held in Manchester. At least 19 GOP presidential contenders are expected to turn up in the Granite State, and under the rules of the summit, each will get a 30-minute time slot in which to deliver an abbreviated stump speech, followed by a Q&A session.
The Ohio governor had a whirlwind tour of South Carolina scheduled for Friday, including stops at a Chamber of Commerce lunch, Clemson University, and a local Republican Party committee’s barbecue.
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