Aug. 09–With all those Republican presidential candidates, and so few policy differences among them, the challenge for the participants on Thursday evening in Cleveland amounted to finding a way to distinguish yourself. Against that standard, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio performed well, making good use of his nearly seven minutes of speaking time, the third most, behind Donald Trump (11 minutes) and Jeb Bush (nine).
The debate captured viewers, 23.9 million, resulting in the highest-ever rating for Fox News and one of the most watched programs in the history of cable television. The format did not allow for exploring positions in any depth. The questions, many sharp and well-conceived, came fast, the two hours moving quickly and delivering moments of drama — for instance, Chris Christie vs. Rand Paul on electronic surveillance, and Trump cast in the role of driver hurtling around the track. Would he crash?
Kasich entered the race as something of a candidate-in-waiting, a more likely option if the amply financed Bush campaign falters. His debate performance helped on that count. If Bush appeared somewhat flat, wearing at times an I-don’t-really-want-to-be-here look, the governor brought more energy and optimism to the discussion, conveying a more unifying spirit.
That is the Kasich many Ohioans have gotten to know. Put aside the policy differences that many, including this editorial page, have with the governor. His emphasis on the need for an economy that lifts people across the income spectrum is a message that Republicans would be smart to develop. The governor brought his usual moral case for helping the poor and vulnerable along with the practical argument about how we are all better off by taking such steps as expanding theMedicaid program.
Which gets to another leading reason for the governor entering the presidential race. He doesn’t just like the attention and the forum. He has talked about wanting a role in defining what it means to be a conservative.
It is a much more inclusive brand that he proposed with his answer to a question about how he would explain his opposition to same-sex marriage to a gay daughter. He restated his position on same-sex marriage, and then pivoted to recall attending the recent wedding of a gay friend. In other words, differences of opinion shouldn’t get in the way of celebrating with those we love.
The governor even indicated that he sees the recent Supreme Court decision as settled law. Will all of this help his pursuit of the presidency? The Republican Party would be smart to listen. No doubt, John Kasich is a conservative. What he brings to the discussion involves more than one of the stronger resumes. He sees a path to broadening the reach of the party, something it must do to have a chance at governing well.
By The Akron Beacon Journal
(c)2015 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.