John Kasich has stayed in the presidential race against all odds by positioning himself as a safe pragmatist among inexperienced ideologues. However, his “nice guy” persona is a ruse to hide his blatant contempt for his supporters and Americans in general.
John Kasich is the Mr. Magoo of the Presidential race, an unassuming dolt who somehow manages to survive even as he constantly blunders into danger. A long-time Republican insider and governor of a state nobody cares about, Kasich’s candidacy was such a joke that when Magyar Hirlap‘s Mariann ?ry asked me to describe him in one line, I replied, “Who?” In a regular election cycle, he’d have been bounced out of the race after the first couple of primaries.
But we’re not in a regular election cycle, and Kasich’s campaign is still going even after seemingly stronger candidates such as Ben Carson and Jeb Bush have bowed out. Kasich made only a handful of appearances in Iowa (which is why I was unable to cover him when I was reporting on the caucuses), instead pouring his energy into New Hampshire, whose secular voters were more receptive to his results-oriented platform. After Marco Rubio had a major malfunction at the eighth GOP debate, Governor Milquetoast was able to steal much of his support for a second-place finish in the Granite State.
Since then, the GOP establishment’s worst nightmare has continued to unfold. Kasich, Rubio, and Ted Cruz have each maintained strong levels of support in the primaries, keeping them in the race and preventing the party from uniting behind an anti-Trump nominee. In particular, Kasich has performed well in the Northeast and Midwest, running a close second behind Trump in Vermont, and has been picking up steam thanks to .
But who would support Kasich? Say what you will about the other candidates in the race; they at least have some kind of hook. For all his repulsiveness, Cruz genuinely appeals to the Republicans’ Christian base, while Rubio’s ethnically ambiguous background, male model looks, and vacuous speeches have made him the GOP’s favorite token minority. John Kasich is so devoid of personality that he probably gets an erection from watching the Golf Channel. Who’d vote for this walking pile of mulch?
I got my answer when I attended a John Kasich town hall meeting in Lisle, Illinois recently. For what it’s worth, Kasich has a genuine appeal to risk-averse, rank-and-file GOP voters. His lengthy resume in Congress and as Ohio’s Governor, combined with his ideological pragmatism, have allowed him to solidify support among voters concerned with the other candidates’ comparative lack of political experience. And, fortunately for Kasich, his supporters are too dumb to realize that he despises them all.
I arrived at the town hall meeting not long after the doors opened: it was being held on the ground floor of Navistar’s headquarters, a company that manufactures trucks. While the room was initially empty, it filled up fast: by the time Kasich himself stepped onto the stage, the bottom floor was standing room only and onlookers had to resort to watching from the floors above us. The demographics were pure convalescent home field trip, and the only attendees younger than 65 (aside from me) were a bored high school civics class.
I was seated next to a retiree couple that was pure Chicago cliché: morbidly obese, tight-lipped, and wearing plaid shirts. I could just visualize the husband sitting in his Barcalounger on game day, clad in a drinking helmet and muttering to himself, “Da Bears…” A reporter stepped over me to interview them, and they told him that they respected Kasich for his “experience” and likely wouldn’t vote in the general election if he wasn’t the nominee.
Kasich himself was 15 minutes late; he descended from the floor behind us like some kind of bureaucrat from the heavens. Similarly to the Chris Christie town hall I attended in Des Moines, Kasich minimized his blathering and spent most of the town hall taking questions:
In person, John Kasich comes off like a goy version of Shecky Greene: constantly trying to amuse the crowd with lukewarm gags. However, his “nice guy” persona falls apart when you meet the man in meatspace. Throughout the town hall, Kasich constantly rolled his eyes and shook his head, indicating his inner bitterness at being the perennial second banana of the Presidential race. You can just tell that when the cameras aren’t rolling, he’s screaming at his staffers, demanding to know why he’s losing to a pompadoured reality TV star and a guy who used to stalk his female classmates while wearing a bathrobe.
Indeed, Kasich’s stump speech was remarkably un-Republican in both tone and content. He touted his experience in fighting drug addiction in Ohio by opening new treatment centers, a far cry from the usual GOP War on Drugs solution of throwing the bad guys in jail. Midway through his speech, he lamented the tone of the Presidential campaign, declaring that he was going to run a “positive” campaign instead of one focused on insults.
The best way to describe John Kasich is that he’s Jeb Bush with edge. His campaign is oriented around the same themes that Jeb used, but unlike that dimwit political scion, Kasich isn’t a jittery dweeb. In fact, Kasich’s speech was disrupted midway through when one of his pensioner fans passed out; he handled it coolly, strolling over and remarking that the guy was “just dehydrated.”
While Kasich is unlikely to get the nomination at this point, his last-minute win in his home state of Ohio, combined with the exit of Rubio, Jeb, and other establishment-lane candidates, will keep him in the race well past his sell-by date. His lack of ideological dogmatism gives him a genuine appeal to the skittish, fossilized GOP foot soldiers of the Northeast and Midwest. Unfortunately for Kasich, in a year in which people are sick of career politicians, his extensive experience in the halls of power is a millstone around his neck.