John Kasich made it very clear he wants to run for president on Friday, repeatedly alluding to the prospect as he promoted his brand of unconventional, “compassionate” Republican politics.
The Ohio governor spoke to a small group of conservative activists Friday at the National Review Institute Idea’s Summit at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. Though he has yet to officially declare, Kasich frequently hinted at a burgeoning presidential campaign.
“You put somebody in this office that plays games, that nibbles around the edges, forget it,” he said, characterizing himself as a straight-shooter. When economist Stephen Moore remarked that Kasich could one day be president, the governor replied, “Maybe soon. You never know.” The audience failed to laugh, and Kasich felt compelled to clarify that the line was a joke. Later, he reminded the audience that, “I spent 18 years on the Armed Services Committee. I have national security on top of all of this — so we’ll see. We’ll see.”
But despite a blowout reelection win last fall, Kasich faces opposition from many on the Right. Moore pushed the governor to answer for one of the most controversial aspects of his term, his decision to implement Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid through executive order. “I had a chance to bring Ohio money back to Ohio to solve some our most desperate problems,” he said, calling it a “moral issue.”
“We’re all made in he image of the Lord,” Kasich later added, “and we have to help people get on their feet.”
#related#He also defended Common Core, saying it allows states to retain control of their education systems and he doesn’t quite understand what the fuss is about. “If there’s something here I don’t understand, if there’s some nefarious thing, tell me what it is!” he said.
Kasich sees his unconventional views and willingness to reach across the aisle as an asset, claiming that if Republicans run with “a divided, divisive, polarizing, ideologically pure message” in 2016, “forget about it. It ain’t gonna happen.”
As for his reputation for bluntness, Kasich rejected the notion that he was too abrasive to connect with voters, noting his overwhelming electoral success in 2014. “I think people are tired of namby-pamby,” he said. “I think they do want direct, but they also want compassion . . . I care about people.”
— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.