If Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential hopes went up in smoke Tuesday, it’s because of a fuse he lit in 2013.
Ohioans recognize well the Kasich who, at Tuesday night’s Fox Business Network debate, burned through voters’ goodwill by talking down to everyone who doesn’t see big government as a moral necessity.
Frustrated he’s getting nowhere with the cheery reformer persona he wears on the campaign trail, Kasich reverted to form on a national stage.
Since 2013, Kasich has used his bully pulpit to berate Obamacare critics. By the time he formally entered the Republican primary, his platform depended on convincing voters Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is fiscally conservative.
Instead of articulating why it would be wrong to take Obamacare money to put working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities on Medicaid, Kasich chose to use the Bible to guilt state lawmakers into expanding the welfare program.
Pushing Obamacare expansion during his February 2013 State of the State address, Kasich bragged his administration was “not ignoring the weak” — and then he called out a specific Republican legislator in the crowd.
“Jim Buchy, the Lord doesn’t want us to ignore them,” Kasich said. In the years since, Kasich has often invoked God, the Bible and St. Peter to shame anyone who speaks up against billions in new federal welfare spending.
Opponents unconvinced by Kasich’s pro-Obamacare spin are dismissed as “ideologues,” a rhetorical tic that resurfaced during Tuesday’s debate as Kasich shrugged off “philosophical concerns.”
“Philosophy doesn’t work when you run something,” Kasich said while arguing about Wall Street bank bailouts with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
“As an executive, I would figure out how to separate those people who can afford it, versus those people, or the hard-working folks who put their money in those institutions,” Kasich explained, to a chorus of boos from the audience.
Combined with his frequent interruptions of moderators and opponents — and his call on candidates to “think about the children” when considering illegal immigration — the exchange with Cruz blew up in Kasich’s face.
“He’s done,” wrote National Review senior editor Jonah Goldberg. Blaze TV host Glenn Beck said Kasich was “perhaps the biggest loser of any debate yet,” and had ruined his shot at being a vice presidential pick.
“Anyone who thinks John Kasich did well, please go register for the Democratic Party,” talk radio host and RedState.com founder Erick Erickson wrote.
The live audience and conservative pundits weren’t the only viewers panning Kasich’s performance. A focus group of New Hampshire Republicans assembled by pollster Frank Luntz gave Kasich the lowest ratings Luntz has ever seen.
Wednesday, a focus group of Republican voters featured on “The Kelly File” on Fox News “was in near unanimous agreement that John Kasich and Jeb Bush did not come off well.”
Kasich didn’t lose all of his fans, though. Left-wing MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said the impression in the “mainstream press” was Kasich “did himself some good” on Tuesday.
Maddow called “internal Republican anger and antipathy” against Kasich and Bush “inexplicable to mainstream observers.”
As if she would know.