Ka­sich sud­denly a real con­tender in US race

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

As many Amer­i­cans en­gage in a sum­mer flir­ta­tion with out­sider Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls, one of the most bat­tle-hard­ened politi­cians in the 2016 race, Ohio Gover­nor John Ka­sich, is rapidly gain­ing ground.

Ka­sich was a late en­try into the 2016 run for the White House but has surged from the back of the pack into se­ri­ous con­tention, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts and polls.

He shined at least week’s Repub­li­can de­bate. And the Univer­sity of Vir­ginia’s Cen­ter for Pol­i­tics, which pro­duces closely-watched cam­paign anal­y­sis, on Thurs­day placed him among the five can­di­dates — out of 17 — most likely to win the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion.

Crowds have swelled at Ka­sichs re­cent town hall meet­ings in New Hamp­shire, the cru­cial north­east state which holds the first-in-thenation pri­mary six months from now.

The 63-year-old prag­matic con­ser­va­tive does not ad­here to ide­o­log­i­cal pu­rity — he has ex­panded Med­i­caid in Ohio un­der U.S. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care re­form, and said he ac­cepts the Supreme Court’s gay mar­riage rul­ing — a key test for core con­ser­va­tives who vote in dis­pro­por­tion­ately large num­bers in many pri­maries.

But his bat­tle for mod­er­ate Repub­li­can vot­ers and in­de­pen­dents is res­onat­ing.

With bil­lion­aire ty­coon and po­lit­i­cal bomb-thrower Don­ald Trump ex­pected by many to fade from the race later this year, Ka­sich is sud­denly one of the pri­mary chal­lengers to Jeb Bush, the for­mer Florida gover­nor who like Ka­sich es­pouses some poli­cies to­wards the cen­ter of the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum.

“For peo­ple with reser­va­tions about the Bush fam­ily name, John Ka­sich is a great sub­sti­tute,” Fer­gus Cullen, a New Hamp­shire Repub­li­can strate­gist who hosted a house party for Bush ear­lier this year but re­mains un­com­mit­ted, told AFP.

Bush’s large lead over Ka­sich in New Hamp­shire has all but evap­o­rated.

Af­ter Trump, the son and brother of two pres­i­dents is sec­ond there with 13 per­cent sup­port, ac­cord­ing to this week’s Franklin Pierce Univer­sity poll.

Ka­sich is just one point be­hind Bush, a sta­tis­ti­cal tie.

Ka­sich was the last of 10 qual­i­fiers for a kick-off Aug. 6 GOP de­bate, but he en­joyed a break­out per­for­mance high­light­ing his em­pa­thy and au­then­tic­ity, an op­ti­mism for Amer­ica, and ence.

“Eco­nomic growth is the key to ev­ery­thing. But once you have eco­nomic growth it is im­por­tant that we reach out to peo­ple who live in the shad­ows, the peo­ple who don’t seem to ever think they get a fair deal,” Ka­sich said at the de­bate, held on his home turf.

“You know, Amer­ica is a mir­a­cle coun­try, and we have to re­store the sense that the mir­a­cle will ap­ply to you.”

His per­for­mance in the de­bate seen by 24 mil­lion view­ers “has cer­tainly raised his pro­file,” Cullen said.

Ka­sich pre­vi­ously had lit­tle na­tional name recog­ni­tion, but he has been around the po­lit­i­cal block for decades.

He spent 18 years in Congress, gain­ing valu­able na­tional se­cu­rity ex­pe­ri­ence and where, as House Bud­get Com­mit­tee chair­man, he helped bal­ance fed­eral spend­ing.

Ka­sich nar­rowly won his Ohio gu­ber­na­to­rial race in 2010, but was re-elected in a land­slide last year af­ter claim­ing suc­cess in low­er­ing un­em­ploy­ment rates and bal­anc­ing the bud­get.

On Wed­nes­day, in good news for Ka­sich, Ford be­gan pro­duc­tion of its F-650 and F-750 trucks at an Ohio plant, af­ter the au­tomaker moved oper­a­tions from Mexico back to the United States, bring­ing more than 1,000 jobs to Ohio.

Such eco­nomic re­vi­tal­iza­tion could prove piv­otal down the road: No Repub­li­can has ever been elected pres­i­dent with­out win­ning Ohio — the mother of all swing states.

He has picked up in­flu­en­tial New Hamp­shire en­dorse­ments, in­clud­ing Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive and for­mer state at­tor­ney gen­eral Tom Rath, who re­cently high­lighted Ka­sich’s “proven track record of bal­anc­ing the fed­eral bud­get, re­form­ing our mil­i­tary and turn­ing around one of our na­tion's largest states.”

And Ka­sich’s first tele­vi­sion ad in­tro­duc­ing him to Gran­ite Staters as a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive with a com­pas­sion­ate streak, went over well in New Hamp­shire where he was seek­ing to win over mod­er­ate vot­ers.

His stand­ing is more mod­est in Iowa, where evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers fea­ture promi­nently and are usu­ally more sup­port­ive of arch­con­ser­va­tives.

He heads there next week, aim­ing to win over skep­tics at the Iowa State Fair, a quin­tes­sen­tial cam­paign stop in na­tional pol­i­tics.

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