COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich sought to shake things up in the latest Republican debate, presenting himself as the sole chief executive in the room who has to deal with reality as opposed to political “philosophy.”
But did he help his cause with a more aggressive approach as he clashed with celebrity billionaire Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and at one point drew boos from the crowd?
“He rolled the dice,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“He was energized. He was trying to get more time than he has in past debates. He wanted to make himself one of the more memorable candidates.
“He accomplished that but not in the way he wanted,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but negative things. A lot of people disliked his manner, and some disliked what he was saying. It was a combination.”
While Ohioans and political pundits may be familiar with the governor’s sometimes abrupt manner, most of those watching the debate were not, Mr. Sabato said.
“I don’t dislike Kasich, but he has a manner that can be grating,” he said.
Mr. Kasich has downplayed the importance of national polls at this early stage, but those numbers help to decide who will have spots in the prime-time debates.
Fox Business Network reduced the number of participants from 10 to eight. Mr. Kasich’s national numbers average 3 percent, vying with Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina for the worst numbers of those on the prime-time stage.
“When you’re at the end of the stage, your next move is down,” Mr. Sabato said. “There’s no question they’re winnowing the field. … He’s got to be concerned.”
Paul Beck, Ohio State University professor emeritus of political science, said Mr. Kasich likely believed he needed to stand out.
“Doing it on policy grounds is not enough to capture attention, so now he’s fighting back with more personal criticisms of particular candidates,” he said. “He invoked from Trump a put-down. That in a way is not a bad thing. It shows Trump is taking him more seriously even if the language of the put-down doesn’t necessarily suggest that.”
Mr. Kasich and Mr. Trump briefly sparred over how much of a role shale oil and gas drilling, or “fracking,” has played in Ohio’s economic recovery. At one point, Mr. Trump attempted to simply dismiss Mr. Kasich.
“I’ve built an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars,” he said. “I don’t have to hear from this man, believe me.”
Mr. Kasich won applause from the crowd when he clashed with Mr. Trump over the businessman’s aggressive stance on deporting illegal immigrants.
“For the 11 million people, come on, folks, we all know you can’t pick them up and ship them back across the border,” Mr. Kasich said. “It’s a silly argument. It’s not an adult argument. It makes no sense.”
The governor also complained to the moderators that he wasn’t getting enough speaking time.
He drew boos from the crowd when disagreeing with Mr. Cruz’s statement that the nation should not bail out failing banks. The Ohio governor, a former regional manager for failed Lehman Brothers, had to explain what he meant when he talked about choosing between “those people who can afford it versus the hard-working folks who put their money into those institutions.”
John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said he believed Mr. Kasich’s performance helped him overall.
“Just from the reaction of the audience and some of the information after the debate, some of his answers were more successful than others,” he said. “His interchange with Trump on deporting illegal immigrants resonated very well and contrasted him as a practical governor who has actually solved problems with somebody who’s more ideological.
“But his comment on the bailout issue did not draw a good response from the crowd,” Mr. Green said. “Focus groups after suggested the answer didn’t resonate that well with the Republican base. In the theme of being responsible and pragmatic, the answer was a reasonable one. But it was also an unpopular one.”
Mr. Beck agreed.
“There’s the whole question of the constituency of the Republican voters within the Republican base for [Mr. Kasich’s] kinds of positions,” he said. “That’s a big question.”
This article was written by Jim Provance from The Blade and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.