Monday, May 12, 2014

Ohio's governor is on a mission to reshape conservatism. Will it get him where he wants to go? John Kasich 5.0

Fitting John Kasich into any one box is a challenge.

There's the spiritual man with a cache of stories about how growing up in a Catholic blue-collar home instilled in him faith, compassion and pluck. There's the hyperkinetic pol whose abrasiveness sometimes overshadows his ability to reach across the aisle and make a deal.

You also have the presidential hopeful who once described himself as a Jolt Cola in a world of Coke and Pepsi. And what about the compassionate conservative who emerged around that same time and returned in recent years? Or the Tea Party patron he morphed into temporarily when he made his political comeback?

When evaluating Kasich's body of work, it helps to look at Ohio's governor in these five iterations, often overlapping but with one or two usually defining him more than the others at a given moment in time.

You can read my series on Kasich, from start to finish, by following the links below.


Part I: In a working-class town outside Pittsburgh, the son of a mailman hones his ambition in the Catholic Church, strikes out on the ball field and thrives on talk radio. They called him Pope – because being a mere priest wouldn’t do for John Kasich.

Part II: John Kasich arrives in Columbus in a bluster. In short order he takes on Ohio State University, Gov. James A. Rhodes and a couple of entrenched Democrats. And he builds a prickly reputation that balances self-promotion and pragmatism.

Part III: With a grunge-rock playlist, a self-described Jolt Cola attitude and a bucket of other pop-culture references, John Kasich runs for president.

Interlude: Recovering politician bides his time at Lehman Brothers and Fox News.

Part IV: John Kasich roars out of political hibernation. He takes on unions, calls a cop an idiot and shakes up the Ohio Republican Party. But when his poll numbers tank, he rushes back to center and aims to redefine conservatism.

Epilogue: Will he or won't he? Assessing the likelihood of another run for president.