Longtime party members and GOP campaign event regulars were struck by how few people they recognized among the 130-plus people who came to see Kasich at the Iowa Startup Accelerator Wednesday afternoon.
Bob Latham of Cedar Rapids speculated many Republicans are looking for an alternative to the current leaders in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination “and Kasich is it for a lot of people.”
“There’s a lot of re-evaluating going on,” Richard Bice of Marion said. In his case, his choice — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — has exited the race, “So I’m starting over.”
And some, like Bruce Lacy of Cedar Rapids, are just starting. He made a point of coming to hear Kasich.
“I’m interested in Kasich as a moderate,” Lacy said, adding that he looking for a candidate “who wants to govern. There are a lot of protest candidates. I’m not interested.”
Kasich hasn’t spent as much time in Iowa as other candidates, but believes that Iowa Republicans still haven’t made up their minds.
“They said I got in too late and I couldn’t raise any money and I wouldn’t get into the debate,” he said.
Kasich said he wants to raise the bar.
“I think the country is hungry to be united,” he said pointing to the optimism demonstrated by crowds that showed up for Pope Francis’s visit.
“America is hungry to fix problems and believe that tomorrow is going to be a better day,” said the second-term governor of the seventh most populous state.
Mike Vestle of Cedar Rapids wants a president who will unite the country, but said Kasich isn’t the only one offering unity. He includes former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and, perhaps, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former chief executive officer Carly Fiorina.
“Most of the rest are dividers,” Vestle said.
Kasich called for balancing the budget, fixing the tax code “so it provides more growth,” rebuilding the military but not by throwing money into the Pentagon bureaucracy, and leading the world “without being policeman of the world.”
“These are the things that have to get done,” Kasich, a former U.S. House Budget Committee chairman and member of theForeign Relations Committee, continued. “We got to protect our borders, manage what we have, and we can scream and shout and stand on that corner and demand all this stuff, but if you can’t do it, it doesn’t matter. You’re nothing more than a clanging bell.”
But Kasich didn’t offer any new ideas, according to Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau.
“What Iowans heard instead were his support for the recycled, failed policies of the past he’s implemented in Ohio that gave tax breaks to those at the very top while slashing funding for public schools and family planning clinics,” Lau said.
Earlier, Kasich visited House of Hope, which he described as a place “where people discover what they need to heal.”
He urged his audience to donate to the faith-based non-profit that offers classes and therapy for women and their families.
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