This is a big week for Ohio Gov. John Kasich: CNN’s Anderson Cooper is hosting a town hall with him Monday night, his new book comes out on Tuesday and he kicks off a three-state book tour on Saturday.
So, is he trying to sell books, line up to run for president in 2020, or push his own policy ideas?
Probably all of the above, says University of Dayton political scientist Christopher Devine.
“I think he’s trying to keep his options open. Obviously, the focus of it is possibly running for president in 2020. That’s going to depend a lot on what the political dynamics are at that time,” Devine said. “Is Donald Trump going to be popular or unpopular? The trajectory is not good for Trump so it makes sense to want to keep the options open.”
KASICH ON CHANNEL 7 SUNDAY
Gov. John Kasich will be on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday at 10:30 a.m. on WHIO-TV Channel 7
President Trump currently has low job approval ratings, no significant legislative wins, rocky diplomatic relations with long-time allies such as Mexico and Australia, and high-stakes face offs with both Syria and North Korea. But 2020 is a lifetime away in politics.
Devine quickly added, though, predictions about Trump’s political success were off the mark in 2016. “You never know with Trump.”
Going against the grain
Kasich was not made available for an interview for this story but he told CNN in February that he has no plans to run for office again. Kasich for America, his campaign website, is still active. Two Paths America, a non-profit public policy organization run by two Kasich allies, is also out there.
In the 2016 Republican primary, Kasich ran against the grain. While Trump hurled insults, Kasich offered hugs and hope.
Voters were captivated by Trump’s tough talk, grand promises and bumper-sticker chants such as “Build a Wall” and “Lock Her Up.” Kasich, the son of a mailman, failed to gain traction against the billionaire who was born into a real estate dynasty.
Kasich only won his home state primary and bowed out in May 2016 as the last man challenging Trump for the nomination. After that, Kasich refused to endorse Trump or appear on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Kasich also rebuked Trump for his hot mic comments degrading women. Kasich said he wrote in Arizona Sen. John McCain for president in 2016.
Before taking office, Trump reached into Ohio GOP politics to engineer an embarrassing loss for Kasich in early January. Trump’s pick for Ohio GOP chairman Jane Timken edged out Kasich’s man, former chairman Matt Borges.
Still, Kasich has not backed down. And he is popping up everywhere: Atlanta for Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebrations, Washington, D.C., to talk health care, the New York Times opinion page, Sunday morning talk shows and more.
Kasich’s long-time pal former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told the Los Angeles Times that the Ohio governor should challenge Trump in a primary in 2020.
‘Every Democrat’s favorite Republican’
Wright State University political scientist Lee Hannah said that in modern times, those who challenge sitting presidents in primaries (Ted Kennedy in 1980, Pat Buchanan in 1992) come from the right or left — not the center, where Kasich stands.
“To me he is every Democrat’s favorite Republican,” Hannah said. “I just don’t know that there are enough moderate Republicans for him to have a constituency against a sitting president.”
Devine agreed, saying that candidates such as Kasich — policy-oriented, centrist — often have cross-party appeal but can’t make it out of a partisan primary.
Trump, who won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote, started out with the highest disapproval rating of any president in the past 64 years, according to Gallup polling. Three months into the job, Trump’s approval rating — 40 percent — is the worst of any president at this point in the term since Gallup began tracking the figures during the Truman administration.
However, nobody is writing Trump’s political obituary. Yet. He has not even reached his first 100 days in office.
“I think John Kasich knows he has one roll of the dice. It’s possible it’ll come up a seven if Trump implodes and John Kasich positions himself as the moderate alternative voice for the Republican Party. I think this is his only shot and he understands that,” said Dennis Willard, a former Ohio politics reporter who is now a Democratic consultant. “John Kasich understands that at some point the pendulum will swing back to the middle. He is jumping on that pendulum and riding it.”
His new book, ‘Two Paths: America Divided or United,’ sticks with his message from the presidential campaign trail: hope and respect.
In the book, Kasich “describes the hope he found while campaigning across the country. And just as Kasich refused to take the low road to the highest office, he shows how by coming together as Americans we can prevent the negative tone of the last election from trumping our patriotism,” according to publisher St. Martin’s Press.
Kasich writes: “We’ve got to recognize that the very real problems facing this country cannot be ignored. We cannot be confused or distracted by bitterness and rancor.”
Kasich is set to discuss the book and Trump’s first 100 days in office at 10 p.m. Monday on CNN. On Saturday, he’ll kick off his book tour at Books & Co. in Beavercreek, followed by stops the following week in Westlake, Chicago and The Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, Calif.
While Trump is new to elected office, Kasich is a veteran of politics. Except for several years post-Congress, Kasich has held elected office since he was 26. Kasich, who is forced out of the governor’s office in 2019 by term limits, has dreamt of being president of the United States since he was a boy growing up in hard-scrabble McKees Rocks, Penn.
Related: Who is John Kasich?
Kasich got his first glimpse of the Oval Office in December 1970 as an Ohio State University freshman when he audaciously wrote a letter to President Nixon, asking for an invite. He got one. Every time Kasich tells the ‘how-I-met-Nixon-in-the-Oval story’, his face lights up with gee whiz astonishment.
Kasich’s 2016 race for president was his second attempt at the White House. He ran for president in 1999, but dropped out of the race before the Iowa caucuses.
Whether Kasich will ever fulfill his boyhood dream of occupying the Oval Office may be the subject of his yet-to-be written memoir. In the meantime, Kasich is keeping his options open.
“Again, I think Kasich likes the spotlight and I think likes to think he should be president so why not?” Hannah said. “It’s his brand.”
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