The Ohio governor says he has a long history of winning elections he wasn’t supposed to.
By Alex Isenstadt
COLUMBUS, OHIO — John Kasich formally launched his long-shot presidential campaign here Tuesday, presenting himself as a unifying figure whose long political resume distinguished him from the many others seeking the Republican Party’s nomination.
“I have the skills, the experience and the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world,” Kasich said during an appearance at Ohio State University, his alma mater, where he was cheered on by a crowd of around 2,000.
Kasich, a two-term Ohio governor who waged a short-lived presidential bid in 2000, became the last entrant in the Republican Party’s largest field in decades. He will face steep challenges. With his late announcement, Kasich will be competing against a group of better known and better funded rivals who have spent months on the campaign trail. National polls show the governor near the bottom of the pack.
During a sometimes rambling 43-minute speech, the famously unvarnished Kasich — without the help of a teleprompter — outlined the campaign he intends to run. He presented himself as an above-the-fray figure who was more interested in governing than playing politics, as an experienced policy-maker, and as a blue-collar politician who had grown accustomed to beating the odds and proving doubters wrong.
“Some are going to ask, ‘Why are you doing this,’” Kasich said, pointing out that many in the media had already proclaimed him to be an underdog. “All my life, people have told me, ‘You can’t do this.’”
As he has done throughout his political career, Kasich took on the role of outsider. He outlined his blue-collar upbringing as the son of a mailman and as a student at Ohio State University, a background he pointed out, that was starkly different from many other politicians. When he first ran for Congress in 1982, he noted, he faced an opponent who’d graduated from Harvard University.
But Kasich, who described his improbable rise from the state legislature to the governorship, pointed out that he had a long history of winning elections he wasn’t supposed to. “Together,” he said, “we’ll prove them wrong.”
The governor laid out a hopeful vision for the country, spurning many of the conservative themes that his opponents embraced in their announcement speeches. He said the country needed to do a better job caring for the poor, minorities, and the mentally ill. “The sun is going to rise to the zenith in America again,” he said. “I promise you it’s going to happen.”
He promised to do away with the divisiveness that had overtaken the country’s politics, even saying at one point that, “This isn’t a political campaign.”
To some extent, the themes are similar to the ones former Ambassador Jon Huntsman embraced during his unsuccessful bid for the party’s nomination in 2012. In that race, Huntsman was guided by some of the same strategists who are now working for the Ohio governor.
At various points, Kasich — a temperamental figure who can come across as gruff and tough — seemed to go out of his way to acknowledge his imperfections. “I’m just a flawed man trying to be God’s messenger. I don’t understand it, he’s been very good to me.”
Following his speech, Kasich prepared to depart for New Hampshire, the famously independent-minded state where he hopes his blunt and pugnacious style will play well and where he’s expected to spend much of his time. Kasich will hold a town hall event in Nashua on Tuesday evening and remain in the state through Thursday.