Ohio governor John Kasich didn’t go to any lengths to play to his crowd on Wednesday night.
Dining with a group of influential pro-growth conservatives at the Four Seasons restaurant in Manhattan on Wednesday — economists Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer, and Stephen Moore were in attendance — Kasich voiced his support for Medicaid and for renewing a spirit of bipartisanship within the Republican party. Fox News hosts Bill Hemmer and John Stossel, and Gristedes Foods founder John Catsimatidis were also on hand.
Kasich, a former nine-term congressman who won a resounding reelection victory in November, is eyeing a presidential bid but, at the dinner’s close, there was little appetite for a Kasich presidency among those who’d assembled to hear him.
The governor showed his prickly side during a testy back-and-forth with Manhattan Institute health-care scholar Avik Roy, who has provided advice to several of the potential 2016 contenders. ”Is it fair to say you support repealing Obamacare except for the Medicaid expansion?” Roy asked. Kasich answered in the affirmative.
“Obamacare’s a bad idea because it’s top-down and does not control costs,” Kasich said. Roy interjected again, “You’re saying Obamacare is top-down government. Is Medicaid not top-down government?”
Kasich appeared to view the remark as a jab at Medicaid recipients. “Maybe you think we should put them in prison. I don’t,” he told Roy. “I don’t think that’s a conservative position. Because the reality is, if you don’t treat the drug addicted and the mentally ill and the working poor, you’re gonna have them and they’re gonna be a big cost to society.”
The governor took heat from his fellow conservatives two years ago when he bucked Ohio’s Republican legislature to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. The reason he offered for his decision further inflamed their passions. “When you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small. But he is going to ask you what you did for the poor,” Kasich said at the time. “You better have a good answer.”
Kasich’s opening remarks, which were followed by a question-and-answer session, focused on his fiscal record as a congressman, where he chaired the House Budget Committee, and as governor of Ohio, where he has eliminated an $8 billion deficit without raising taxes. He also talked about the need for a renewed bipartisan spirit on both sides of the aisle, citing Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, and Jack Kemp and Charlie Rangel, as models for contemporary lawmakers to emulate.
#related#Kasich, who made a brief run for the White House in 2000, is frequently mentioned as a potential 2016 nominee. He is the governor of a swing state with a strong record of achievement who has been a part of the Republican sweep of the Midwest that, in 2014, finally captured Illinois. But the governor’s remarks on Wednesday didn’t stoke much desire from the conservative crowd for a Kasich candidacy, even as Wisconsin governor Scott Walker has faltered and his fellow midwestern governor, Indiana’s Mike Pence, has shown few signs of launching a bid.
But for Kasich, who is 62, who was first elected to Congress in 1978, and who hosted a successful show on the Fox News Channel before he ran for governor, that may not matter.
“I have no regrets whatsoever about my political career,” he said last night.