As the Iowa caucuses and our state’s first-in-the-nation presidential primary draw near, the Republican field of potential nominees remains unusually crowded, to the point where Thursday night’s debates on Fox, even separated into two tiers, may not include all the nationally recognized candidates still in the running.
Despite the congestion, we feel one candidate clearly stands above the other GOP contenders in both experience and temperament. That candidate is Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Among Republicans hoping to champion the party’s chances in November, Kasich’s resume is unusually impressive. During his nine terms in Congress representing Ohio, he was a key figure in constructing federal budgets and reducing the national deficit, chairing the House Budget Committee for six years. He also demonstrated considerable knowledge in the areas of defense and foreign policy as an 18-year member of the House Armed Services Committee. After leaving Washington, he eventually returned to Ohio, where he’s in his second term as governor of a large and politically diverse state. There, he turned a projected $6 billion state budget deficit into a $2 billion Rainy Day fund.
In both roles, Kasich has distinguished himself as a pragmatist, willing to make tough choices even when they go against conventional party wisdom. In Washington, his effort to balance the budget included strong advocacy for reassessing the nation’s military bases, closing some and realigning others, and fought to end the expensive B-2 bomber program. While in Congress, he voted for an assault weapons ban and favored background checks at gun shows.
In Ohio, he stood out as a Republican governor willing to implement the expansion of Medicaid services through the Affordable Care Act. Criticized by his former tea party supporters for the move, Kasich said two things that are indicative of his leadership style. He noted the program would be paid for mainly by the federal government, including with money Ohioans had sent to Washington and deserved to see return to the state. More to the point, he noted it was simply the right thing to do to help those most in need in his state. While opposing the ACA, he acknowledges that any reworking or replacing of that law needs to include continuing to care for those Americans who have gained coverage through the program.
Much has been made during this election cycle of the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington and the discontent of voters. This dynamic may be responsible for the strong polling of candidates with no prior experience in government, or those who have positioned themselves as “outsiders” ready to swoop in and change the way government works.
A fresh perspective is always welcome, but those with little or no knowledge of how to get things done in the nation’s capital are at a decided disadvantage, especially those who would be bringing with them a strong ideological approach at a time when partisanship and the refusal to compromise is a major part of the problem. What the country needs in Washington is someone who knows how to reach out to work cooperatively to get things done, not someone vowing to force members of the opposition to capitulate.
Kasich has worked across the aisle in the past, most famously hammering out a welfare reform bill and the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 with President Bill Clinton. We believe he’s willing to do so again.
Further, as the rest of the 2016 GOP field has worked to make fear and prejudice the prevailing concerns of voters, Kasich has steadfastly made economic growth and reining in government spending the cornerstones of his campaign.
No candidate in this election is ideal, and we do have reservations about some of Kasich’s positions, in particular on social issues such as women’s rights and in his tax policy’s reliance on trickle-down tax cuts for the most wealthy.
That said,in the interest of seeing a functional federal government that reaches across the political divide, continuing the nation’s economic recovery and having a chief executive with the experience and demeanor needed in that position, we urge those casting ballots in the Republican primary to choose John Kasich.