Kasich launches campaign of compassion and fiscal responsibility

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington
Posted 7/21/15, 04:08 pm

Promising a campaign of “big ideas,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Tuesday became the 16th—and perhaps final—Republican to jump into the 2016 presidential race. 

Before a crowd of 2,000 at Ohio State University in Columbus, Kasich touted his resume as a budget hawk and vowed to bring fiscal sanity back to Washington.

“You want job creation, you balance the books,” he told supporters.

His 45-minute address was light on details and long on principle. He offered little in the way of specific policy prescriptions, highlighting instead the vision and values that will steer his White House bid. 

Among those values, the governor said, is compassion. Kasich said we must help those “who have not been dealt the best hand in life.” He pledged a hand up for the drug addicted, mentally ill, and the working poor, adding “the Lord wants our hearts to reach out to those who don’t have what we have.”

He added, however, all Americans must take personal responsibility for their lives.

Kasich, 63, said his experience sets him apart from the rest of the GOP field. In just over four years as governor, Kasich said he has turned an $8 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus. He trumpeted a gain of 350,000 jobs “and tax cuts of $5 billion, the largest in the country.”

Prior to becoming Ohio’s 69th governor, Kasich served 18 years in the House from Ohio’s 12th District and was a key figure in the “Republican revolution” of the 1990’s. 

From 1995 to 2001, Kasich crafted the GOP’s fiscal blueprint for the nation as chairman of the House Budget Committee. And he was the tip of the Republican spear in budget battles with President Bill Clinton’s administration.

Kasich told supporters that while it wasn’t easy, he got the job done. 

“They said it was too big, too hard, too much politics, and we proved them wrong again and we balanced that federal budget!” he said.

A heated GOP standoff with the Clinton White House did lead to a balanced budget but not before a partial shutdown of the federal government in 1995. Kasich said he put principle over politics and will always be proud of having stood his ground.

He added that fiscal responsibility is not about numbers. 

“It’s about vision, it’s about values,” he said. “And we do not have the right, as grown-ups to ring up debts to suit ourselves and pass them on to the next generation.”

Kasich’s early efforts to balance the books in Ohio led to a bruising—and ultimately unsuccessful—fight with unions, which threatened to doom his first term in office. 

In March 2011, just two months after he was sworn in, Kasich signed a bill designed to restrict collective bargaining for public-sector workers. But public unions forced a referendum on the law, and Ohio voters soundly rejected it (a so-called “citizens veto”). 

Polls showed Kasich’s approval rating plummet amid that fight with big labor. But he regained his political footing, and last November won reelection to Ohio’s top office in a landslide, crushing Democratic challenger Ed Fitzgerald by a 31-point margin. 

The governor’s record as a social and fiscal conservative likely will be greeted warmly by the base of his party. But he has been criticized by many conservatives for his decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He told reporters in 2013, “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he's probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.”

The Kasich campaign must hope his announcement results in a polling bounce. He’s drawn only 2 percent support in the two most recent national presidential polls. That puts him at risk of being left out of the first Republican presidential debate, which will be held in his own back yard, Cleveland, Ohio. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, is limiting the field to 10 candidates to be determined by an average of major polls.