Today’s late entry into the GOP presidential campaign, John Kasich, has had such a low profile that he looks better than the collection of crazies stumping the country for the GOP presidential nominee. Conservatives should love him—investment banker, Fox network commentator, budget hawk, blue-collar background, past legislator, and governor of the must-win state of Ohio for the president. His short fuse, however, may bring more excitement to the fight, currently among the field of 15 men and one woman who desperately want to be winners. For example, he prompted a walkout after yelling at a wealthy donor at a Koch brothers-sponsored conference. He told a BP employee in a meeting that oil and gas companies deserve to “have a bad reputation.” He added, “Oil companies are liars and they are going to be screwed.”
His anger is so obvious that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) accused the 63-year-old candidate of having “a hair-trigger temper.” Like candidate Scott Walker, Kasich cuts out anyone who disagrees with him. Conservative activist Matt Mayer said:
“When you criticize Kasich, you’re sort of dead to him. That’s the way it works.”
Kasich may have a better chance than when he first ran in 1999, but a downside to the incumbent-defeating state senator, congressman, and governor is that the people of Ohio voted out his signature law rolling back public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights, worse than Walker’s law in Wisconsin. “Ohio’s law … gives city councils and school boards a free hand to unilaterally impose their side’s final contract offer when management and union fail to reach a settlement,” New York Times’s Steven Greenhouse wrote. Kasich’s law also applied to police and firefighters, who were exempted from Walker’s law. Backlash cut Kasich’s approval-disapproval rating from 30 to 46, and the Ohio constitution allowed voters to put the law up for approval or disapproval. Despite his campaigning for the law, Kasich lost by 61 to 38 percent.
The 16th candidate also opposed his own party to accept the Medicaid expansion with the argument that helping the poor is a Christian action. In the 21st century, this is an anti-GOP position. He even went farther when he claimed that limited government advocates had to do more to help the less fortunate. He presented this position at the Koch brothers event, but Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley were quick to disagree. Kasich even told the New York Times that the GOP is waging a “war on the poor.” He said that his “most important mission” was to convince conservatives that “when some of us are doing better, it is essential that we begin to figure out how to help people who are not doing better.” Preparing for his campaign, he told people to “read Matthew 25″ about feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. His arguments make the GOP uncomfortable because religious arguments to help people makes cutting those programs far more difficult.
The Ohio legislature refused to expand Medicaid so Kasich bypassed them. He went to the state “Controlling Board,” created to handle adjustments to the state’s budgetary flow and asked them to let the federal Medicaid money come into the state. When two appointees indicated that they would vote against Kasich, he simply replaced them with a final count of 5-2 in favor. Lawsuits against his action failed with the state Supreme Court upholding Kasich’s actions. A former president was Kasich’s justification:
“Reagan was fiscally responsible, but he was also pragmatic and compassionate. When we consider what Reagan would do, let’s also remember what he did do—expand Medicaid.”
Kasich’s win raised his popularity poll to 55 percent approving of his job performance, compared to 30 percent disapproval. Lawsuits against his action failed when the state Supreme Court upheld Kasich’s actions, and he won his next election with a 31-point victory.
Kasich has followed the GOP position in his support of a mentor program receiving Ohio taxpayer funding from “Community Connectors” required that the schools partner with both a church and a non-profit business and signing a bill that stopped Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for at least two years. Worst, however, may be Kasich’s elimination of women’s reproductive rights.
Ultrasounds are required at least 24 hours before women who can receive oral contraception or an IUD because Ohio law equates preventing pregnancy to abortion. All women having abortions must also have ultrasounds, even if doctors find these unnecessary.
Restrictions on women’s clinics have caused Ohio to lose seven of its 16 clinics since 2011 putting the state second in closures behind Texas. That was before the latest set of highly restrictive laws attached to the state’s budget bill, one which mandates that clinics have an emergency patient transfer agreement with a hospital no more than 30 miles away. One new Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements although Ohio law forbids public hospitals from accepting such transfer agreements. Another one law closes a Dayton clinic waiting for two years for a state variance allowing it to operate without this agreement by requiring that the clinic get a variance within two months.
These new laws are piled on top of the ones from two years ago, defunding Planned Parenthood, moving state funding from real reproductive health facilities to faith-based, anti-choice “crisis pregnancy centers, and requiring that doctors have partnerships with private hospitals—highly difficult because most private hospitals in Ohio are religious ones. Two years ago, a law stripped funding from rape crisis centers that give clients any information about abortion services and requires doctors to give women seeking abortion information about the presence of a “fetal heartbeat.” Kasich has made life harder for women in keeping from getting pregnant, having abortions, and keeping their children because the budget cuts for welfare services to single mothers went to the crisis pregnancy centers.
As conservatives in Ohio struggle to pass a 20-week abortion ban, they fail to consider that Ohio law defines fertilization as dating from the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period, actually about two weeks before true contraception. That means that Ohio could have an 18-week abortion ban as conservatives have tried to impose on the state.
Kasich imposed a policy in which counselors at rape-crisis clinics are legally prohibited from referring victims to abortion providers, even though terminating an unwanted pregnancy is still legal. The governor has not explained why the gag rule is necessary.
On the national level, Kasich’s chances are slim to none. Ranked at 12th in national polls, he hasn’t topped three percent in any of them, keeping him out of the first debates, awkward because the first one on August 6 is in his home state. Only George Pataki rates below him in the latest PPP polling. His chances and position put him in the same arena with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, who continually pointed out the failures of the GOP base in his 2012 GOP run for president. Kashich’s team includes two key consultants for Huntsman. The Washington Examiner’s Philip Kline wrote that conservative voters should “punish [Kasich] for his expansion of President Obama’s healthcare law.” Other conservative pundits such as Avik Roy, who works for Rick Perry, and Jason Hart, Watchdog.org reporter, agree with Kline.
Republicans from defense hawks to protectors of corporate tax breaks were upset with Kasich, then U.S. representative when he helped broker an agreement with President Clinton and congressional Republicans to balance the U.S. budget in 1997. How long Kasich will last, no one knows. His campaign 16 years ago ended in July 2000 because Bush had much more money than he did. When Kasich dropped out 16 years ago, he said about Bush’s slogan, “This business of compassionate conservative, I wish I’d thought it up.” Now he’s co-opted the description.