He's Ohio's favorite son, a millennial champion and says he'll go to a same-sex wedding if gay marriage is legalized in his state. His political thesis is that conservatism should have a moral purpose and he was the only Republican governor to run for re-election in 2014 without attacking President Obama. Millennials love him - he won their votes by a 15-points margin in 2014.
Meet Governor John Kasich - the next politician preparing to declare his candidacy for President.
Kasich is going to have a tough time winning a Republican primary dominated by the parties' right wing. In his first term as governor, Kasich embraced Obamacare's expansion of Medicaid in order to expand health care coverage for low-income adults. Kasich defended his decision saying that he had a moral responsibility to help the poor. The Tea Party was enraged; in 2014 it attempted to a failed primary challenge. Nonetheless, Politico predicts that Kasich will "Have a giant Obamacare target on his back."
That's a shame, because Kasich is as good a Republican governor as they get. In his first term in office, Kasich accomplished significant achievements: he balanced the budget, cut taxes, and reduced regulation. He told The Economist that he believes "conservatism must have a moral purpose." This purpose, he says, is to celebrate success and help others achieve it. This belief resonates strongly with younger voters, who tend to think of politicians as selfish crooks (just one third of young people think it is honorable to run for office). And his authentic, can-do attitude sets him apart from the pack: instead of shutting down the federal government when he disagreed with Obamacare, he took advantage of it to help the citizens of his state.
On the campaign trail, Kasich seems like the first genuine politician you've ever met. When The Economist asked him what he thought about winning 25% of the African American vote, he responded, "I'm flabbergasted by it." Later he jokes that, "When I said [during the campaign] that we need to respect the president of the United States, the reporter [for the Associated Press] nearly passed out." Kasich says he understands blue-collar voters. When he goes into their communities, he can say, "I get your values. I grew up next door to you." Instead of attacking societies' weakest as parasites, Kasich has made it his policy to help them: he says that the job of government is to help the people who "live in the shadows" - including drug addicts, the homeless, and ex-cons.
Kasich talks explicitly about helping America's next generation. He told voters, "There's a certain magic that comes from teamwork. There's a magic that comes from pulling together. We have managed our budget, we've managed the size of the state government, we've reduced taxes, we're up now almost a quarter of a million jobs, that's our moral purpose. I think that Ohio's greatest legacy is that the next generation is better off then the generation we're in; that's what I want for my children. We're doing better and better and better and as result of that its lifting everybody."
Kasich intends to campaign primarily in New Hampshire early in the race. He says he will campaign on his experience: "Everyone can talk about what they want to do, but the most important thing is what have you actually done?" he said. "What have you accomplished? If people are bored by it, well, they'll have to put up with it while I give them the résumé. They need to know." Unfortunately for Kasich, voters often care more about candidates' visions than their resumes; first-term senator Barack Obama defeated long-term pol John McCain in 2008 despite the latter's stronger resume. Kasich's "mercurial" personality may be a liability come 2016.
With Kasich not even registering in polls outside of Ohio, he stands little chance at winning the White House. But if Kasich can carve out a successful voter base on the primary campaign trail, he will be a very attractive choice for Vice President. Republicans know it will be almost impossible to win the White House without Ohio; they lost the state in 2008 and again in 2012. With Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio at the top of a ticket and Kasich at the bottom, Republicans would dramatically increase their chance of winning from a pure electoral math perspective. In Ohio, Kasich has found the political center, often winning support from Democrats and Independents. This too would be an asset for a Republican ticket.
Keep an eye for John Kasich. If you haven't heard of him yet, you will very soon.