The Abrasively Boring Kasich Making His Move!

Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons

I guess Jeb Bush’s underwhelming performance in the Invisible Primary for 2016 makes this inevitable, though I still don’t get it. “It” is the conviction by some elements of the media that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is about to enjoy a huge boom in support that will lift him to the front-tier of presidential candidates and beyond on the shoulders of Republican “moderates” excited about his shockingly innovative idea of a balanced budget constitutional amendment and thrilled by his expansion of Medicaid.

The latest essay on the Kasich Express is from Politico‘s Alex Isenstadt, who also hypes Kasich’s potential for replacing Bush as the darling of the Republican Establishment. But Isenstadt also indicates that Kasich doesn’t always rub his target audience the right way:

Kasich’s temper has made it harder to endear himself to the GOP’s wealthy benefactors. Last year, he traveled to Southern California to appear on a panel at a conference sponsored by the Republican mega-donors Charles and David Koch. At one point, according to accounts provided by two sources present, Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he’d expressed the view it was what God wanted.

The governor’s response was fiery. “I don’t know about you, lady,” he said as he pointed at Kendrick, his voice rising. “But when I get to the Pearly Gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.

The exchange left many stunned. Around 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar — opportunities for presidential aspirants to mingle with the party’s rich and powerful — in the months since.

No, you don’t sit in a roomful of rich people convened by the Brothers Koch and imply they are going to hell for churlishness towards the poor and then expect them to write you a big check.

So what is it about Kasich that keeps the talk of him as an underrated superstar going? Yes, he’s got the long resume, but all that really does is to remind people he was a really big deal in Washington in the days of Newt Gingrich, not the ideal credential for replacing Jeb Bush in the first tier. Yes, he won a big reelection in a blue state last year, but that was mainly because his opponent imploded. You have to figure Kasich-o-mania comes from two factors: a fixation with Ohio as an electoral college “game-changer” (though the same can be said for Bush and Rubio and Huckabee and Carson’s Florida), and the fact that in certain media circles Kasich’s fiscal hawkiness isn’t a boring fetish for a discredited cause but the Wave of the Future.

In any event, the people predicting a Kasich Boom (even Albert Hunt rates him as having better odds for the nomination than anyone outside the top three of Walker, Rubio and Bush) better hope he makes the Fox News Big Boy Debate cutoff. Right now the RealClearPolitics polling average has him tied for twelfth with Carly Fiorina. I won’t for a third time mock the Ohioan’s presidential prospects with the video of “Enter Sandman” being performed on kazoos, but I do still hear that it my mind every time his name comes up.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.