When he spoke in Washington on Thursday, John Kasich wouldn’t say when he would make a final decision about running for president. But the second-term Republican governor of Ohio made it perfectly clear that he believes he’s the best person for the job.
Interviewed by ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl at The Atlantic’s “Summit on the Economy,” Kasich was asked to make the case for his candidacy, and he didn’t hesitate.
“Of all the people thinking about it, I’m the most experienced,” Kasich said, noting his 18 years representing Ohio in Congress, his experience in the private sector and his tenure as governor, during which the state’s economy has rebounded.
“It’s experience and a record,” he told Karl. “It’s not what I want to do. It’s what I’ve done.”
While his history may be able to make certain first-term senators look callow by comparison, Kasich’s possible candidacy is not without its potential problems. More of a Main Street Republican than a doctrinaire conservative, he has often clashed with the hard right element of the party, whose support has proven vital both to winning the Republican nomination and to inspiring high GOP turnout.
Most notably, Kasich opted to accept the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, an act of political blasphemy in the eyes of Tea Party Republicans.
On Thursday, though, Kasich was defiant. “I said I want to take $14 billion of Ohio money back to Ohio, away from Washington in this whole Medicaid thing,” he said, referring to the federal funding the state receives to support the expansion. “Why do I want the poor people, the working poor, to spend all their time in emergency rooms, driving up the costs for all of us to pay?
Leaving that money on the table, would have been “economically wrong and morally wrong,” he said, regardless of what the hard right thinks. “If they don’t like what I’m saying, that’s not going to change what I do.”
Other Republican candidates in the past have found it difficult to stick to their guns in the midst of primary season, particularly on the Obamacare issue. Mitt Romney, whose Massachusetts health care plan provided the basis for the Affordable Care Act, had to walk a very fine line in trying to tout what many viewed as his greatest achievement as governor while distancing himself from the federal version of the law. Romney’s defense of his Massachusetts law sparked outrage among conservatives.
Whether Kasich wants to face similar fury may be one of the biggest questions he has to answer as he considers a presidential run. The other, he admitted Thursday, is whether he can raise enough money to match the likes of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is already amassing huge sums for his campaign.
The bottom line, Kasich said, is that if he doesn’t think he’ll win, he won’t get into the race. In a not-so-veiled dig at some of the other candidates, he said he has no book to sell and no television talk show to promote. And, he also has no timetable — at least none he is willing to advertise.
Pressed repeatedly by Karl to say when he would make a decision, Kasich consistently refused.
“I’ll make a decision when I’m comfortable,” he said.
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