It’s no secret that Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s strategy for winning the Republican presidential nomination boils down to hanging around until the convention in July and hoping that the other two candidates, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, are just so unpalatable that the delegates turn to him instead.
However, he has rarely said it as plainly as he did during a strange and rambling interview with The Washington Post editorial board on Wednesday.
“I don’t think at the end they’re going to pick somebody who’s going to pick somebody who’s going to lose in November. I just don’t believe it. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong before. But I just think it’s very hard for them to pick somebody who they know is going down, because who’s going to be there?”
But for all his assurance on that question, the interview transcript suggests a candidate weirdly disengaged from the race he is running, and even the party he wants to represent.
Of the convention he said, “I mean, I don’t know all this other delegate stuff because I don’t spend time on it.” He even claimed not to know the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination -- 1,237 -- though the figure has been in virtually every news report about the race for weeks.
He criticized the Republican Party as a whole for its general negative outlook. “See, I am a fundamental believer in ideas,” he said. “If you don’t have ideas, you got nothing. And frankly, my Republican Party doesn’t like ideas. They want to be negative against things.
“Now we got – we’ve had a few who have been idea people. We had Reagan. Okay, Saint Ron. We had Kemp, he was an idea guy. We had, you know, I’d say Paul. Paul is driven mostly by ideas, Paul Ryan. He likes ideas. But you talk about most of them, most of them – the party is kind of a knee jerk against. Maybe that’s how they were created. I don’t know.”
Discussing the coming nominating convention and the need for the party to rally behind a single candidate, he opined, “It’s – and you know what, the party – like I one time looked behind the curtain and there was nobody there. There is no kind of party. The party is an amalgamation of all the people who’ve raised money and been involved in politics and you know, like yesterday I was in Maryland. I think that’s where I was. I was in Maryland. So Ehrlich was there. And then there’s this guy there who’s run like a bunch of campaigns. He’s raised tons of money for Ehrlich and all. Just a regular old guy. I mean, he doesn’t – I mean, he’s the party.”
He was also curtly dismissive when challenged on various things, such as his change of position on birthright citizenship between supporting a bill opposing it while in Congress and supporting it as a governor.
“It’s just like, I mean, birthright citizenship, I probably signed onto some bill. It’s like, who cares?” Kasich said. “You’re a congressman. Sometimes you sign on, you’ve got all this stuff coming across your desk, let’s not get over serious about this. It never passed.”
When he was asked about the lack of details in his tax and fiscal proposals -- something that the Tax Policy Center, the Tax Foundation, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have all said makes analysis of his proposals impossible -- he seemed annoyed that anyone should even be questioning him on the topic.
“No, it’s 28, 25, 10 with an earned income tax credit and fewer deductions. Deductions for state and local taxes and charity. That’s what the plan is. Okay? It’s not – I mean, what more do you need? I can tell you what the rates are. I mean, what’s so difficult about this? That’s the outline of it. What else do we need? It’s like how are you going to balance the budget? What, I’m going to send you a 30-page document here that shows all the little details of this? I mean, come on.”
The interview went on in that vein at length, with Kasich arguing, in the end, that the board should take his word for it when he says he’ll balance the federal budget and cut taxes because he’s done it before.
At another point, Kasich flatly said that a carbon tax would not work to reduce pollution. When one of the members of the editorial board rightly pointed out that virtually all economists disagree with him on that point, his response was, “You know, look, I am not going to get into that. I don’t think so, and you know, all economists, is that like all pollsters? Is that like all pundits? I mean who are these people, you know?”
In one of the odder moments, he even dismissed the idea that residents of the District of Columbia should have representation in Congress on purely partisan political grounds.
“What about voting rights in Congress, voting representatives?” he was asked by Jo-Ann Armao, an associated editorial page editor.
“Probably not. I don’t know. I’d have to, I mean, to me, that’s just, I just don’t see that we really need that, okay? I don’t know. I don’t think so,” he said.
“But you realize though that people in D.C. pay taxes, go to war and they have no vote in Congress,” she said.
“Yeah, well look, I am not – I don’t – I am not, because you know what, what it really gets down to if you want to be honest is because they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.”
Kasich spent a portion of the interview complaining that he’s not getting the sort of press attention that the other candidates are. Reading the transcript, that’s easy to believe, because Kasich is speaking like a guy who thinks nobody’s really paying attention to what he says.