If you want to run for president of the United States, it helps to start with some sort of personal advantage that sets you apart from the rest of the field. Vast personal wealth is nice. So is national name recognition. But money can be raised and name recognition can be bought. Starting with the quintessential battleground state of the last several presidential elections in your back pocket, though? That’s hard to beat.
That’s why, on Sunday, when Ohio Gov. John Kasich appeared on Fox news, his verbal dancing around whether or not he would run for president sounded a whole lot more consequential than the same fare delivered by Sarah Palin, Donald Trump, and half a dozen other hopefuls who turned up in Iowa over the weekend at an event organized by hard-core conservative Republican Rep. Steve King over the weekend to tease the GOP base.
Kasich is an interesting combination of bedrock conservative beliefs (he’s currently touring the country in support of a Constitutional convention that would force a vote on amending the nation’s founding document to require a balanced budget) and decisions that drive many of the most hard-core Republicans nuts (accepting the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, and supporting the Common Core educational curriculum.)
He is also governor of one of the few states that can truly make the difference in a presidential election, Ohio, which he won with 64 percent of the vote in his race for governor, and which has enjoyed an economic comeback (as has much of the country) in the past two years.
Kasich served nearly two decades in Congress until 2001. He worked nearly a decade in the private sector and then won election to the governorship of Ohio in 2010.
Speaking to Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday morning, he did not say that he was planning to run for President. But to anybody paying attention, he sounded like it.
“Listen, we’re running a billion and a half surplus in the state,” he bragged. “We’re structurally balanced when 20 other states are not able to do that. We’re up almost 300,000 jobs.”
Kasich also took the opportunity to mention that he was chair of the House Budget Committee the last time the U.S. passed a balanced budget.
Fox host Chris Wallace challenged him on a point that would likely be a sticking point for any in the conservative base: Kasich’s support for social welfare programs. At that, the governor went into an impassioned monologue on the issue.
“I’ve always been fiscally responsible, but let me just speak to that issue of helping other people when economic growth provides you an opportunity,” he said. “I will not turn my back on the mentally ill who live under bridges too often…in this country. I will not turn my back on the drug addicted and I won’t turn my back on the working poor.
”I am a believer as a conservative that everybody has a God-given purpose and it is our job on a temporary basis to try to give them a chance to fulfill their God-given purpose by helping them. Now, it can’t be a way of life. It can only be a situation where you help them for a short period of time.”
Kasich more than once mentioned that Ohio is “a microcosm” of the United States, which in combination with a detailed accounting of his electoral success in the state, led Wallace to push him with regard to his presidential ambitions.
So, is he running for president? In the end, Kasich was just as coy as most other potential candidates when asked a direct question. But his appearance on Sunday suggested that his interest in the race, unlike some of the potential candidates who seem to be running for a better time slot for their talk show, or an increase in their speakers’ fees, is pretty serious.
“I just want to be a good leader,” he said. “I want people to feel like they have a chance no matter who they are.”
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times