Tuesday, December 22, 2015

John Kasich's year as a presidential candidate: From coy to joy to annoyed

I like to think of John Kasich's 2015 in three phases.

First there was the coy phase. For months the Ohio governor danced around the obvious – that he was preparing a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Next came the joy phase. Once Kasich finally made it official, he seemed to be having the time of his life. Not even Donald Trump could spoil his fun.

Then we saw Kasich's annoyed phase. As GOP voters look to fresh faces and anti-establishment voices, he grew frustrated over how hard it was to translate his 18 years as a Washington insider and five years as a swing-state governor into a winning message.

Read the full story

Monday, December 21, 2015

Why Lindsey Graham's exit from the presidential race means more than you might think

Lindsey Graham dropped out of the Republican presidential race Monday. Before you get all smug and say how insignificant this is, given that the South Carolina senator is polling at 0 percent, consider the following ...

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Hey Cleveland, here's what you should know about the prospects of a brokered Republican convention

There's a fresh round of brokered convention buzz.

The Washington Post, citing unidentified sources, reported Thursday that Republicans are preparing for the possibility of coming here next summer without a presidential nominee.

If that happens – and, really, let's not get carried away until the first votes are counted in February – Cleveland will earn a special chapter in the nation's history.

There hasn't been a true brokered convention since 1952, when Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson. Republicans haven't had one since 1948, when they nominated Thomas Dewey, he of the infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline.

So much has changed since, most notably the emergence of caucuses and primaries to select convention delegates. Of course there have been moments of high convention drama since the 1950s. In recent cycles it has become a rite of passage for political observers to game out all the scenarios that could lead to an impasse.

So, Clevelanders, here are a few things you should know ...

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George Voinovich for president?

Gov. John Kasich's staunchest supporters will tell you they can't fathom anyone else winning Ohio's Republican presidential primary on March 15.

But say it happens. To whom would Kasich's pledged convention delegates turn?

Jeb Bush? Chris Christie? Marco Rubio? Any of these choices would make sense, given that they are courting the same center-right voters Kasich is targeting.

We can rule out Donald Trump. He and Kasich have been trashing each other for weeks.

Ben Carson? Ted Cruz? Carly Fiorina? Mike Huckabee? Rand Paul?

How about none of the above?

The Kasich campaign asked its delegates to declare George Voinovich – the former U.S. senator, governor and Cleveland mayor – as their second choice. Presidential candidates have until 4 p.m. Wednesday to file delegate slates with the Ohio secretary of state.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Absent from the Donald Trump outrage: A strong rebuke from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus often points proudly to his party's efforts to embrace diversity and be more inclusive.

It was Priebus who demanded the "autopsy" after a devastating 2012 cycle in which GOP candidates, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, offended Hispanics, women and other voting blocs key to winning at the national level.

And it was Priebus who watched approvingly last summer when Gov. Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag to come down at the South Carolina Capitol.
But it's also Priebus who has been conspicuously quiet as Donald Trump – the party's 2016 front-runner, according to most polls – makes a hash of the GOP's message.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Donald Trump goes easy on John Kasich

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Donald Trump pulled his punches.

On a night when many expected him to escalate his feud with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the real estate mogul and Republican presidential front-runner went easy on his rival.

In the opening minutes of his speech at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, Trump, as he often does, reveled in polls that show him leading the big GOP field.

"Your governor's only [at] 2" percent, Trump said, teasingly. "What happened?"

The crowd booed, though it was unclear whether they were jeering Trump or Kasich. Trump mispronounced Kasich's name a few more times – saying it Kay-sitch instead of Kay-sick – and brought up the poor poll numbers once again. But that was it.

Trump otherwise was his provocative self.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Why John Kasich's Judeo-Christian values push is not a surprise -- and why it's misunderstood

A little more than a year ago, long before he was a presidential candidate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told me he was eager to talk more about faith.

The Republican, who was raised Catholic and is now Anglican, wondered why a recent profile I had written on him had not included more about his spiritual journey.

Kasich also wondered how he might start a national conversation on the Judeo-Christian values that he believes are the bedrock of Western society. Though devout, Kasich isn't seen as evangelical. He did not want his message to be viewed through such a prism.

The fact that he was thinking out loud on the matter indicated that he knew he had to tread carefully. For many, the notion of a proselytizer-in-chief is an uncomfortable one.

This discussion with Kasich came flooding back to me Tuesday, when during a major national security speech the governor proposed a new agency to promote Judeo-Christian values across the globe. His call was a response to the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS, and last week's terrorist attacks in Paris. And it quickly raised eyebrows.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Lincoln Chafee and Lawrence Lessig, we hardly knew ye: Democratic presidential power rankings

It was fun while it lasted.

The will he-or-won't he suspense surrounding Vice President Joe Biden.

The half-baked speculation surrounding everyone from Al Gore to Michael Dukakis.
Jim Webb running in the wrong primary.

The inexplicable candidacy of Lincoln Chafee.

Some guy named Lawrence Lessig.

But now the Democratic race for president is down to three, and barring any surprises, it's Hillary Clinton's to lose. Bernie Sanders is on to something, though. And Martin O'Malley now has a little more room to breathe on the debate stage.

Read the full story

See the slideshow

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

John Kasich's last debate performance didn't play well in New Hampshire

Through all of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's struggles as a presidential candidate, his team has taken comfort in New Hampshire.

Even in early October, after the Republican's numbers dropped in the important first primary state, chief strategist John Weaver bragged about internal data that showed voters there viewed Kasich more favorably than other contenders.

But last week's debate in Milwaukee, where Kasich's unsteady performance earned him rough reviews, has hurt him in New Hampshire. That's one of the key takeaways from a new poll from WBUR 90.9, a National Public Radio Station in Boston.

Read the full story

Mary Taylor's moment: Ohio lieutenant governor looks to prove skeptics wrong with big 2018 push

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Oh, there you are, Mary Taylor.

And by there, I mean everywhere.

At a Cleveland luncheon for real estate executives. At a shale summit in West Virginia. At a Republican fundraiser in Idaho on behalf of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose job Taylor would assume if Kasich moves to Washington after the 2016 election.

Even on TV, where the lieutenant governor stars in a commercial for Medicare open enrollment, ostensibly in her duties as director of the state's Department of Insurance.
With these moves and others, Taylor has staked a surprisingly aggressive claim to a 2018 race for governor that is shaping up to be a battle of top GOP talent.

Read the full story

Monday, November 16, 2015

Feel the Bern? Bernie Sanders storms in Cleveland with a pitch for 'revolution'

CLEVELAND, Ohio – So this is what a Bernie Sanders rally is like.

An ear-splittingly-loud crowd that eggs on the Democratic presidential hopeful's barbed attacks on capitalism. Boos when he brings up the rich, cheers when he flays them.

Pandemonium when he stands up for women's rights, gay rights and legal marijuana.

And the signs. They were worthy of a ballgame, with social media hash tags like #AloeForHillary. Because, of course, it's time to #FeelTheBern.

A soothing evening of politics, this was not.

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Predicting the GOP nominee remains a challenge: Republican presidential power rankings

The last few weeks in the Republican race for president have featured two debates, a near meltdown for Jeb Bush and more antics from Donald Trump.

But predicting the nominee remains a challenge.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida has replaced Bush as the establishment favorite. But does being the darling of mainstream conservatives mean anything anymore?

Ben Carson has so far survived the increased scrutiny that comes with a front-runner's status. But how many more hits can the retired neurosurgeon handle?

And Trump? Carson's emergence has cost the real estate mogul his commanding leads in key polls. But while he's no longer the front-runner, he remains firmly in the top tier.

Read the full story

See the slideshow

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In wake of Paris attacks, John Kasich sees new opening for his adult-in-the-room message

John Kasich's attempts to be the adult in the room – rooted in his prescription for a balanced federal budget – have so far fallen flat in his bid for president.

Now, with worries of terrorism back at the forefront in the wake of Friday's attacks in Paris, Ohio's Republican governor sees a new opening for his message.

As news of the attacks spread Friday, Kasich was in New Hampshire, the important first primary state key to his White House aspirations. At a town hall-style forum in Laconia, he led attendees in prayer. His campaign sent reporters video excerpts from the event.

Read the full story

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Nina Turner changes her mind on Hillary Clinton, endorses Bernie Sanders for president

Nina Turner, the former state senator from Cleveland and a top Ohio Democratic Party official, is ditching Hillary Clinton in favor of Bernie Sanders.

Turner and Sanders' presidential campaign confirmed the endorsement Thursday.

"I'm very attracted by his message and his style -- and that he has held pretty much strong on his beliefs and the world is catching up with him," Turner said.

Turner added that Sanders' positions on voting rights and wage issues have stood out to her. While she is expected to be active in his campaign, a Sanders spokeswoman said whatever role Turner has will not be paid.

Read the full story

More: Why Turner's shift matters.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Post-debate analysis: John Kasich scored on Donald Trump, but people will remember the boos

Maybe John Kasich would have been better off at the kiddie table.

In theory, you want to be on that prime-time stage, as the Ohio governor was Tuesday night in Milwaukee for the fourth round of Republican presidential debates.

In reality, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie turned his banishment to the evening's undercard into the kind of standout performance that has eluded Kasich.

Christie shined alongside three other candidates who failed to reach his level of charisma or command. When Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tried to sling arrows his way, Christie diplomatically ducked and bashed Democrat Hillary Clinton instead.

Kasich, meanwhile, solved a problem that had nagged him. On stage with seven of the other higher-polling hopefuls who qualified for Fox Business Network's main event, he pushed himself into the middle of the action in confident and convincing ways.

But overall the debate was a mixed bag for Kasich.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The 2016 ground game has begun in Ohio, with Republicans looking to build an early lead

Three years ago, President Barack Obama won Ohio's prized electoral votes in a tight race that both sides fought to the bitter end.

But Obama might have clinched his victory here the year before, in November 2011, when a coalition that included his field operation, organized labor and a robust network of activists won a referendum over union-busting legislation backed by Republicans.

For the institutional forces that drive Democratic turnout, it was a massive dress rehearsal, pulling in some 3,000 volunteers and collecting data that would be valuable in 2012. The GOP tried its best to catch up, but its machine was no match.

Now, one year out from the next presidential election, the picture on the ground in this hotly contested battleground state could not be more different.

Obama is term-limited, his political team scattered to the four winds. The Democratic National Committee has kept a low profile. Meanwhile the Republican National Committee boasts it already is paying more than 20 field organizers in Ohio.

Read the full story

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

John Kasich at the Boulder debate: Mission accomplished

Written with Stephen Koff

John Kasich came out swinging.

It appeared to work.

Going into Wednesday night's debate in Boulder, Colorado, Kasich needed to boost his standing as Republican primary voters continue to size up their presidential aspirants and decide whether a man who made his mark in Congress and later played a role in Ohio's economic recovery now deserves a shot at becoming United States president.

Kasich's physical position -- on the far left of the stage -- had the potential to mark the Ohio governor as a minor character in a crowd of men (and one woman) with big, if conflicting, ideas and ambitions.
Kasich earned that poor spot because of his relatively low poll numbers nationally.
But the first question in the CNBC debate was for every candidate, and luckily for Kasich, the order went left-to-right, giving Kasich the very first shot.

Read the full story

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

John Kasich takes off the gloves, but can he survive a bare-knuckled brawl with Donald Trump?

WESTERVILLE, Ohio – Donald Trump finally got to John Kasich. Now the Ohio governor is down a path that has tripped up other Republican presidential hopefuls.

Kasich abruptly shifted his tone Tuesday by sharply rebuking three of his higher polling rivals for the nomination: Trump, Ben Carson and Jeb Bush.

This is a risky escalation of Kasich's adult-in-the-room strategy. Where before acting like the grownup meant staying out of Trump's muddy mosh pit, Kasich now is the angry father telling his children all the many ways they have disappointed him.

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Monday, October 26, 2015

Donald Trump erroneously takes credit for Ford shifting truck production from Mexico to Ohio

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump enthusiastically patted himself on the back Sunday, asserting on Twitter that, because of political pressure he applied, Ford Motor Co. has nixed expansion plans in Mexico.

But Trump appeared to be confusing two separate projects – one that Ford is moving ahead with in Mexico, despite his protests, and another here in Northeast Ohio.

The self-congratulatory tweets drew the ire of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump's rivals for the GOP nomination. Ford's plant in Avon Lake recently began production on two lines of medium-duty trucks that had been made in Mexico.

In 2011, his first year as governor, Kasich championed tax incentives that assisted the move, which is expected to preserve more than 1,000 jobs.
Read the full story

Friday, October 16, 2015

John Kasich back on the bus, but unsure which way to go -- or whether to run over Donald Trump

TUFTONBORO, N.H. – John Kasich took the first unofficial steps of his White House journey last fall. Fresh off a landslide re-election victory, he traveled to Boca Raton, Fla., for a Republican governors summit seen as an audition for the 2016 presidential race.

At the time, Kasich was least likely to succeed.

Ahead of him on the depth chart were, in roughly descending order, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Perry of Texas, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Snyder of Michigan and even Mike Pence of Indiana.

What would you have said then if I had told you that, nearly 11 months later, Ohio's Kasich would have outlasted or leapfrogged every last one of them?

I'd have hummed "Hail to the Chief." I bet you would have, too.

These thoughts run through my head as I watch Kasich do his thing here Wednesday. It's a beautiful autumn evening in New Hampshire. We're in the middle of a massive barn. There are pumpkins and mums and bales of hay. And flags. Lots of American flags. I've been warmed by hot apple cider and the hospitality of total strangers.

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

John Kasich launches new phase of presidential campaign with focus on tax cuts and balanced budgets

NASHUA, N.H. – Ohio Gov. John Kasich, angling for a breakthrough in a Republican presidential race that has favored flashy personalities and Washington outsiders, proposed a conservative package of government and economic reforms here Thursday.

The centerpiece: A balanced federal budget, something that hasn't been accomplished since Kasich was chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee in the 1990s.

"As president," Kasich vowed in a speech at Nashua Community College, "I will immediately put us on a path to a balanced budget, and I will get it done in eight years."

The speech launched a new phase of Kasich's White House bid. With the next GOP debate less than two weeks away, he wants to make his years of experience in Congress – a potential liability as voters flirt with the likes of Donald Trump – more attractive. He hopes to move the conversation in a way that elevates his relatively low profile.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

In search of Jon Huntsman and his pearls of New Hampshire wisdom for John Kasich

MANCHESTER, N.H. – On one hand, Monday must have been awesome for Jon Huntsman. On the other, Monday must have been kind of lousy for Jon Huntsman.

The former Utah governor, whose 2012 presidential campaign is memorable for all the wrong reasons, was the belle of the ball here at a No Labels convention that drew five live and in-person White House hopefuls and three more via video.

Huntsman, a Republican, co-chairs the bipartisan group with Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut who became an independent later in his career. Lieberman has his own experiences in electoral futility. He was the losing vice-presidential candidate in 2000 and got nowhere in his own presidential bid in 2004.

I arrived Monday interested in Huntsman's thoughts on Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Many political observers – some thoughtfully, others superficially – have compared Kasich's current play for the GOP nomination to Huntsman's effort the last time.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

For John Kasich and Donald Trump, a tale of two crowds at No Labels convention for compromise

MANCHESTER, N.H. – If ever there was a crowd for Ohio Gov. John Kasich but not Donald Trump, it was here at a bipartisan conference of open-minded voters.

Kasich has staked out turf in the wild and unpredictable Republican race for president by promoting middle-ground governance at a time of deep polarization.

But he has found himself drowned out nationally by a pack of give-no-quarter candidates – Trump being the loudest – stoking anger and playing to the extremes.

The first-of-its-kind No Labels Problem Solver Convention welcomed both Monday to a massive hotel exhibition center in this state that holds the first primary. Things went about how you would expect for Trump. It was more of a mixed bag for Kasich.

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Who will be next to drop out of the GOP race? Republican presidential power rankings

So long, Scott Walker.

Your decision to end your presidential bid, following money woes and weak debate performances, created some wiggle room in the Republican presidential race.

But none of your former rivals has followed your call to thin the field even more.

At least not yet. There's a good chance another candidate or two could drop out of the race before or soon after the next debate, set for Oct. 28 in Colorado.

Read this month's analysis

View the slideshow

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Despite polling dip, John Kasich stays the course

Two states carry more importance than any others on Gov. John Kasich's road map to the White House: Ohio and New Hampshire.

Now, within four days, he has hit a polling slump in both.

The numbers aren't the best read on Kasich's chances at this early stage, four months before Republican caucus and primary season begins. But they come at a tough time for his campaign, which after a strong start is struggling to maintain momentum.

Read the full story

Monday, October 5, 2015

Here's the first sign that Mary Taylor will run for governor in 2018

It's a minor change. But it could be the first tangible move in what could be a crowded Republican race for governor in 2018.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's gubernatorial campaign, which essentially is closed for business now that Kasich can't seek a third consecutive term and is running for president, has quietly dropped Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor from its name.

What had been Kasich-Taylor for Ohio is now Kasich for Ohio, according to paperwork filed last week with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office.

A source close to Kasich's political operation told the Northeast Ohio Media Group on Monday that the change reflects Taylor's interest in running for governor. Removing Taylor's name from Kasich's gubernatorial committee would clear the way for her to raise money through her own campaign organization.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Special election will select replacement for John Boehner's congressional seat

Reported and written with Jackie Borchardt

A special election will be held for House Speaker John Boehner's congressional seat, and the field is wide open for who might next represent Ohio's 8th District.

Boehner's resignation Friday means voters will have to elect someone to finish his term through December 2016. His resignation takes effect Oct. 30 -- too late to add his seat to the Nov. 3 General Election.

There will be a primary and general election for the seat, and one election could align with an already scheduled election, such as the March 2016 primary.

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Marco Rubio backer Bernie Moreno hedges his bets, donates to John Kasich's presidential campaign

Turns out that Bernie Moreno has room in his heart -- and in his checkbook -- for both Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

The Cleveland-area businessman made news last month by hosting a fundraiser for Rubio's presidential campaign, despite being a Kasich appointee to the Cleveland State University board of trustees and a police-community relations panel.

Moreno, president of the Bernie Moreno Companies chain of luxury car dealerships, said then that he saw Rubio as a "JFK for the next generation." Thursday evening, he was among the guests at a fundraiser for Kasich's White House bid in Pepper Pike. Moreno said Friday that he and his wife both contributed to Kasich.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Scott Walker's exit from the presidential race could open doors for John Kasich in the Midwest

As recently as a month ago, the thought that fall would come with Scott Walker on the sidelines was absurd. Even a week ago, before the second Republican presidential debate, the notion would have seemed preposterous.

But the Wisconsin governor ended his White House bid Monday evening, becoming the latest casualty in this bizarre summer of Donald Trump.

Once the frontrunner in Iowa and an undisputed top-tier candidate across the map, Walker's quick and complete unraveling will go down as one of the most remarkable stories in this unpredictable battle for the GOP nomination.

Now, for the first time in the race, there's at least one clear lane for Ohio's John Kasich. With Walker's exit -- and with decisions by Indiana's Mike Pence and Michigan's Rick Snyder not to run -- Kasich is the last Midwest governor standing.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Beer koozies, dancing and pragmatic Republicans: John Kasich finds a comfort zone on Mackinac Island

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – John Kasich finished a long week of campaigning here Saturday, finally in something resembling a political comfort zone.

The Republicans in Michigan are Kasich's kind of Republicans.

"We're all the same people," the Ohio governor and presidential hopeful told a few dozen of them during the first of three events Saturday at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference. "People keep saying, 'Well, how come Republicans can't win Michigan?' Maybe sometimes it's because Republicans don't understand Michigan."

These Republicans, who gathered for a weekend loaded with networking at the picturesque Grand Hotel, applaud politely for hardline conservatives like Ted Cruz. Many of them roll their eyes when you bring up Donald Trump. But Michigan is mild as far as conservatism goes. A guy like Kasich can feel at ease here.

How at ease? Kasich did something he never does on the trail.

He danced.

Actually, he danced twice.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

John Kasich remains above the fray but under the radar in second Republican presidential debate

The opening moments of Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate sounded a bit like a shouting match at recess.

Donald Trump, the real estate mogul and this summer's undisputed leader in opinion polls and insults, took a gratuitous shot at Rand Paul's declining fortunes.

The Kentucky senator fired back at Trump for critiquing former tech executive Carly Fiorina's looks. So Trump responded with a crack about Paul's looks. Then Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker jumped in, belittling Trump and his old reality TV show.

"We don't need an 'Apprentice' in the White House," Walker jabbed.

On and on it went for several minutes. When the moderator Jake Tapper of CNN tried to move on, Ohio Gov. John Kasich interjected and made his move.

"If I were sitting at home and watching this," Kasich said, "I'd be inclined to turn it off."

Kasich's goal going into the prime-time debate was to prove he was the grown-up in the room. With that line – one of the very few Kasich got on a stage with 10 other White House hopefuls – he went a long way toward achieving what he set out to do.

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Why Donald Trump is not No. 1 in my GOP power rankings

Every month I compile what list-lovers know as "power rankings" – a stab in the dark at who will be the last presidential candidate standing at next summer's Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

And every month my boss, Chris Quinn, wonders what on earth I am thinking.

There's a saying in politics: If you're explaining, you're losing. I disagree. Debate is essential to our discourse. If I must explain myself to Chris, I might as well explain myself to you, too. So this month, we put our robust discussion on camera.

Read the full post

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Will John Kasich's early success make him a target at Wednesday night's Republican debate?

John Kasich is bracing for an attack.

The Ohio governor and Republican presidential hopeful will take the stage Wednesday night in California for his second prime-time debate in as many months.

He barely snuck into the first, where his performance gave his then-fledgling campaign a needed boost. Now a top tier candidate in make-or-break New Hampshire, Kasich no longer has the luxury of sneaking up on anyone, especially not the three early frontrunners his advisers once saw as his chief competitors for the nomination.

Read the full story

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hillary Clinton's summer of drama creates openings for Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden: Democratic presidential power rankings

When Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, her advisers talked a lot about how, this time, things would be different.

The guiding principle: No drama.

You know what they say about the best laid plans.

Read the full analysis

See the slideshow

Could there be a brokered convention in Cleveland? Republican presidential power rankings

The longer Donald Trump hangs around, and the longer once-formidable frontrunners such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker flounder, you can't help but wonder: Could Republicans be headed for a brokered convention in Cleveland?

Sure, more than a few pundits float this prospect every four years. And some candidates even convince themselves of the plausibility as a rationale to keep going.

But consider where we are, 10 months before the party must settle on a nominee.

Read September's analysis

See the slideshow

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Meet Beth Hansen, the under-the-radar operative steering John Kasich's presidential campaign

COLUMBUS, Ohio – If his choice for campaign manager is supposed to tell us something about John Kasich, let's first consider how the Ohio governor and Republican presidential candidate explained why he chose Beth Hansen.

"Forget everything else. I love the fact that she's a woman," Kasich told reporters in July, after announcing that Hansen, a GOP operative for decades and Kasich's original chief of staff in the governor's office, would run the White House bid.

"What a fantastic thing that is. I like to have women in high places in organizations."

It's a useful line in a political environment where Kasich and his fellow Republicans will face "war on women" charges because of their anti-abortion policies and because of complaints that they pay men more. It also set up a nice comeback a few weeks later when Donald Trump, Kasich's front-running rival for the nomination, offended many women with his puzzling attack on Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly.

But it only scratches the surface of who Hansen is and how she fits with Kasich, who faced pressure to hire someone with a bigger name. Those who know Hansen best say her rise to the high command of a national campaign is a testament to her instincts and her loyalty -- and particularly to the value Kasich places on the latter.

Read the full story

Friday, August 28, 2015

Who's afraid of John Kasich?

Republican presidential candidates not named John Kasich face a dilemma as they look toward a March primary on the Ohio governor's home turf.

Do they play for a win if the race for convention delegates is tightening? Or do they defer to a favorite son in a state no GOP nominee can afford to lose come November?

"Favorite" is the key word in this equation. A recent Quinnipiac University poll measured Kasich's job-approval rating at 61 percent, matching his personal best. And 55 percent of Ohio voters – another record-high – have a favorable opinion of him.

Read the full story

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hillary Clinton, citing Tamir Rice and Virginia shootings, decries gun violence in Cleveland speech

The big theatrics of presidential politics returned Thursday to battleground Ohio amid unexpectedly high stakes for Hillary Clinton.

The Democratic frontrunner, suddenly facing a possible challenge from Vice President Joe Biden, rallied supporters at Case Western Reserve University.

"I am thrilled to be back in Cleveland and in Ohio with so many friends," said Clinton, who spoke from a stage on Freiberger Field. "I love coming here. I love seeing the progress. I love seeing the new construction in this area."

Read the full story

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Marco Rubio's Ohio fundraisers include 2 John Kasich appointees to college boards

Two of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's appointees to college boards are helping one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination raise money.

Bernie Moreno, who heads a chain of luxury car dealerships, and David Heller, a real estate developer, each hosted a fundraiser last week for Marco Rubio.

The events came during the Florida senator's Friday visit to the Cleveland area ahead of his speech Saturday at an Americans for Prosperity conference in Columbus.

Read the full story

Friday, August 21, 2015

Jeb Bush tries to score some conservative cred at Koch brothers' summit in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Jeb Bush, eager to solidify his conservative credentials and mindful that he will need a broader coalition to win the White House, closed his speech to a Tea Party audience here Friday with a call to campaign everywhere.

"We need to make sure," said Bush, "that we start with the premise that people will embrace our philosophies – that they are conservatives, they just don't know it yet.

In a way, the line sums up the challenge Bush faces in a crowded Republican race for president. Conventional wisdom pegs him firmly as a moderate. The staunchly conservative record he built while governor of Florida predates the Tea Party and a growing demand for ideological purity from those who carry the GOP banner.

Bush's message: I'm conservative. You just don't know it yet.

Read the full story

Will John Kasich's Goldilocks approach be 'just right' enough to win a Republican primary

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has brought a message to the Republican presidential race that often places him smack dab in the political center.

It's an unusual approach in a party where candidates tend to run to the right during the primaries and then retreat to the middle for the general election.

Kasich's team, though, sells him as a compromising, compassionate and conservative leader who can reach middle ground on divisive issues. Some find him too conservative, others not conservative enough. Probably means he's just right, his advisers say.

"I think Republicans allowed themselves to be put in a box," Kasich said last week in an interview with CNN. "To me, conservatism is giving everybody a chance to be able to be successful. That's the way Reagan was. I mean, that's common sense."

But Kasich, by running as a political Goldilocks who has found a comfortable seat atop the fence, risks being labeled as a waffler or, worse, a flip-flopper.

Read the full story

Monday, August 17, 2015

All eyes on Joe Biden amid Hillary Clinton server drama: Democratic presidential power rankings

The Democratic race for president – once widely viewed as Hillary Clinton cakewalk – has gotten interesting in a hurry.

Clinton last week turned over her private email server to the U.S. Department of Justice. Questions about how she handled classified correspondence as secretary of state are not going away. Neither are questions about whether she can be trusted.

Meanwhile, second-place contender Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont continues to draw big crowds and topped Clinton in one recent New Hampshire poll. For a while there was some buzz about Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, but he says he's not interested. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig has launched a long-shot bid.

Read the full story

See the power rankings

Donald Trump proves us wrong: Republican presidential power rankings

On second thought, maybe this Donald Trump thing is for real.

In July, the real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star seemed little more than a passing fad in a Republican Party known for its presidential flavors of the month.

And then Trump went ahead and dominated the race like few others have in history. National poll after national poll pegged him as the frontrunner. So did polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states on the election-year calendar.

Yes, Trump's universal name-recognition in a crowded field of relative nobodies is helping him. So, too, is the free media coverage he is "earning" with his antics. But John Kasich summed it up astutely at the GOP debate in Cleveland this month.

"Donald Trump is hitting a nerve in this country," Ohio's governor said. "People are frustrated. They're fed up. They don't think the government is working for them. And for people who want to just tune him out, they're making a mistake."

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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kasich scores points on gay marriage without embracing it

The kudos keep pouring in for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. His tender response last week to a question about gay marriage has been viewed as a sign that at least one Republican candidate for president can speak with compassion.

So hearty the reviews have been, it's easy to overlook a few relevant details.

For starters, Kasich opposes gay marriage. And as gay rights advocates push for stronger anti-discrimination laws in Columbus and in Washington, his aides will not say whether he supports these efforts, even as he preaches equality and respect.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

John Kasich had a good night at his first presidential debate, but how he got there tells the bigger story

The pundits thought they had Ohio Gov. John Kasich's number before he took the stage here for the first Republican presidential debate.

One Washington publication warned about Kasich's "moody" temperament.

Another helpfully advised: "Don't be a jerk."

And yet ... "Everybody expects him to reinforce the narrative that he's a jerk," a GOP operative offered to Politico's Playbook, the morning bible for political junkies.

Kasich cleared this low bar and, with his performance in prime time Thursday night at The Q, accomplished what he set out to do. He established himself as a mature and experienced leader who could emerge as a viable alternative to the super-sized field's early frontrunners: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and, yes, Donald Trump.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

How Trump, Kasich and the rest of the Republican field fared at their first debate

Written with Stephen Koff

One thing was clear as the top Republican candidates for president gathered here for their highly anticipated first debate.

This is going to be one wild ride between now and July 2016, when one of them will claim the GOP nomination in the same arena they did battle in Thursday night.

It wasn't just Donald Trump who provided the punch. Yes, the renegade real estate mogul lived up to the literal center-stage placement he won thanks to his leading position in national polls. An entertainer at heart, he was a fountain of one-liners.

But those overshadowed by Trump in recent weeks also made aggressive plays.

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Monday, August 3, 2015

What Trump, Kasich and 14 more must accomplish in the Fox News debates

Written with Stephen Koff

With a record TV audience likely for Thursday's Republican presidential debate at Quicken Loans Arena -- thank you, Donald Trump -- the pressure is on for the candidates.

The Fox News-sponsored event sets the stage for the coming campaign season, officially marking the start of a process that ends in Cleveland next summer with the awarding of the GOP nomination at the Republican National Convention. As many as 17 candidates will be here this week, divided into two separate panels Thursday.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

John Kasich's super PAC tapped into his longtime core of Columbus contributors

Allies of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his presidential campaign hauled in nearly $12 million over two months – much of it from the Buckeye State.

A report filed Thursday with the Internal Revenue Service shows that New Day for America raised the lion's share, collecting $11.1 million since April.

And the affiliated New Day Independent Media Committee, formed to bankroll pro-Kasich advertising, raised $600,000 in one day from two donors.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

On eve of Cleveland debate, Lake County murder plays into Donald Trump's immigration attack

Ohio has never been ground zero in the debate over immigration.

But when a Republican presidential field led by Donald Trump arrives here next week for its first debate, a case in neighboring Lake County could be a major flashpoint.

Officials say Juan Emmanuel Razo, 35, shot and killed Margaret Kostelnik in her Concord Township home Monday and attempted to rape a 14-year-old girl at nearby Helen Wyman Park. Razo also is accused of attempted murder related to the shooting of another woman.

During a traffic stop less than three weeks earlier, sheriff's deputies learned that Razo was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, a detective said at a Tuesday court hearing. Details of why Razo was stopped aren't clear. Razo was not arrested then. He has lived in the country for five years and had no criminal history locally.

Regardless, the scenario presents a told-you-so moment for the most vocal critics of President Barack Obama and U.S. immigration policy. And it feeds a broad-brush notion – perpetuated by Trump from the moment he stormed into the race last month – that undocumented immigrants are a threat not only to the economy but also to public safety.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Why John Kasich ended his 2016 kickoff tour in Michigan

SOUTHFIELD, Michigan -- This isn't New Hampshire, with its independent politics and first-in-the-nation primary. It isn't Iowa, with its social conservatives and quirky, king-making caucus. And isn't South Carolina, gateway to southern Republicans.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich already spent considerable time in the first and briefly paid his respects in the other two this week as he launched his campaign for president.

So it was here, in Michigan, where Kasich completed his five-day kickoff tour with a big, three-event swing. The state does not receive the constant attention commanded by the three biggest prizes at the front end of the nomination fight. Its voters have not backed a GOP hopeful for president since 1988.

Nevertheless, Michigan has emerged as one of Kasich's biggest targets. It falls early enough in primary season that the governor, even if he starts slow, could be well-positioned for a breakout or at least pick up a good chunk of delegates. He and his advisers are banking on his blue-collar pitch playing well here.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Pro-Kasich super PAC staffs up

New Day for America, launched by Ohio Gov. John Kasich and his allies to support Kasich's presidential ambitions, has reorganized as a so-called super PAC -- a political action committee that can spend unlimited cash.

With Kasich's White House bid now official, federal election laws prohibit him and his campaign advisers from coordinating with the operatives at New Day.

Nevertheless, the independent expenditure group will have several people quite  familiar with the Republican, his policies and his political thinking. Connie Wehrkamp, a longtime Kasich spokeswoman, joined New Day this week as press secretary.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Senate race ignites war of words between Ohio Democratic Party chairmen past and present

Ohio Democrats couldn't beat Republicans at the statewide level last year. Ever since they seem more interested in beating up on each other.

Take the latest feud surrounding next year's U.S. Senate primary, which pits the reliable, if predictable, Ted Strickland against the younger, if untested, PG Sittenfeld.

The winner is expected to face Republican incumbent Rob Portman.

Party Chairman David Pepper insists he didn't intend to start this fight last week when he told the Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board that Sittenfeld, a Cincinnati city councilman, ran the risk of "moving too quickly" up the political ladder.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Why not John Kasich? The obstacles Ohio's governor will face in his bid for president

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The "why" of John Kasich's latest presidential run wasn't always easy to hear Tuesday as the Ohio governor meandered through his 43-minute kickoff speech.

The one consistent theme, which Kasich returned to several times: Why not?

"They said it couldn't be done," Kasich said each time he led his audience down the path of some past political conquest. "We proved them wrong."

This was a great rallying cry for those already supporting him, as most of the 2,000 people who crammed into Ohio State University's Ohio Union are.

What it wasn't was the big-picture pitch one might expect from a White House hopeful who needs a strong start to rise in a field that already featured 15 other Republicans. But the message accurately summed up where Kasich sees himself in this race.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

An awkward day at the factory for John Kasich

ROCHESTER, N.H. – One by one, they file into the break room. Boss' orders.

"Grab a seat," Joe Shean says as chairs squeak on the tile. "Grab a seat."

Five workers huddle around the lunch table, their knees bouncing. A few others line the wall. They wear ball caps, cargo shorts and sleeveless tees that show off their tattoos.

A soon-to-be presidential candidate sits at the head of the table, one leg crossed over another. He wears dark dress slacks and a wrinkle-free checkered shirt with a firm collar and buttoned cuffs. His film crew hovers, shooting footage for ads.

Reality quickly sets in for Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "This is really the last place you guys want to be."

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How John Kasich's New Hampshire strategy is shaping up on the eve of his presidential run

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – The big cardboard sign that points the way toward Ruth Griffin's 90th birthday party is polite but firm. Invited guests only, please.

You're Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

You're about to launch a presidential campaign. You're polling so low that your team has dipped into the money early just to get your name and face on TV. You're among more than a dozen Republican candidates and one of eight or nine who probably need to win here in the nation's first primary state to have a prayer of winning the nomination.

For now, all that matters is that you have Griffin's invitation to blow on by that sign. And for the next hour, you will be the only White House hopeful her friends will meet.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Democratic presidential power rankings: Bernie Sanders draws big crowd, Joe Biden waits

There's no need for a spoiler alert to tell you very little has changed in the Democratic presidential race over the last month.

Yes, Hillary Clinton used a rope to keep a pack of reporters at bay.

Bernie Sanders is drawing big crowds.

And even though you may not have noticed, Jim Webb finally made it official.
But a certain state of blah hangs over the contest.
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Republican presidential power rankings: Donald Trump is riding high in the polls. So what?

No Republican presidential hopeful dominated the last month quite like Donald Trump did.

He arrived at his June 16 campaign kickoff dramatically – via escalator – and then offended many with his comments about Mexican immigrants. Multiple companies, including NBC, which aired his long-running reality TV show and his Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, soon rushed to cut ties with the real estate mogul.

All the while, Trump climbed in the polls. He rocketed to second place nationally. And now GOP nonfactors such as George Pataki, aware that anything about Trump is a guaranteed headline, are attacking him to scavenge a few morsels of coverage.

Pataki, the former New York governor, is not among the top 10 in this month's Northeast Ohio Media Group power rankings of the Republican field.

And neither is Trump.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Meet the advisers and insiders behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich's campaign for president

John Kasich has a coterie of longtime loyalists – a kitchen cabinet he has turned to time and again for counsel throughout his political career.

As Ohio's governor, he has a team of core advisers that for five years has been building the Kasich brand into something that can sell on a national stage.

And now that Kasich is about to launch his second campaign for president, these inner circles are fusing and expanding. Here are the names to know on Team Kasich.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

New fundraising group forms to boost John Kasich as he prepares to run for president

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's soon-to-be-official presidential campaign has another ally in the big-money chase.

New Day Independent Media Committee Inc. has filed initial paperwork to operate as a tax-exempt organization under the Internal Revenue Service's Section 527 rules.

Such organizations can raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash.

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rick Hodges, defendant in landmark same-sex marriage case, gives reading at gay wedding in Ohio

Rick Hodges, head of Ohio's Department of Health and named defendant in the landmark case that ended last week with the U.S. Supreme Court legalizing gay marriage nationwide, gave a Bible reading Thursday at a gay wedding.

Hodges stood at the Columbus nuptials of Steve George and Jeff Gatwood.

"Steve's been my friend for 25 years, and I am looking forward to celebrating with him," Hodges said by telephone shortly before the ceremony began.

A number of top Republicans, including Gov. John Kasich and his wife, Karen, were on hand for the celebration.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

How John Kasich's budget deal -- and his 44 vetoes -- will play on the 2016 campaign trail

Gov. John Kasich didn't get the 23 percent income-tax cut he wanted. But as he prepares to make his White House campaign official, you can be sure he will point to the budget he signed Tuesday as a sign of sensible compromise.

That plan features a 6.3 percent, across-the-board reduction and inches Ohio closer toward Kasich's goal of eliminating the state's personal income tax.

And while tax cuts will understandably be a central talking point for a Republican eager to appeal to conservative voters, how about Kasich's 44 line-item vetoes? That's double the amount from two years ago. A close read of his explanations suggests a few political opportunities and risks as Kasich runs for president.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Does slow and steady win the race for John Kasich? Why July will pose a big test to his political career

Here's one way to look at John Kasich's soon-to-launch presidential campaign: When Ohio's governor formally announces his candidacy July 21, he already will have outlasted his last White House bid by a full week.

Kasich ended that unappreciated and underfunded endeavor July 14, 1999. The first votes of the 2000 election would not be counted for another six months.

These timing comparisons are not perfect. Sixteen years ago, Kasich technically never took the "exploratory" label off a campaign that began in February. But, poor fundraising notwithstanding, he was running just as hard as George W. Bush was.

The landscape ahead of 2016 is much different. Kasich is, too.

Most serious GOP contenders – and there are more this cycle than any in memory – already have entered the race. Kasich might be last to the starting line. For all of Kasich's impetuous tendencies, his 2016 rollout is a study in deliberative politics.
A strategy so cautious carries some risks.

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Sunday, June 28, 2015

Ohio Gov. John Kasich to announce presidential plans July 21 at Ohio State University

Ohio Gov. John Kasich will formally launch his bid for president July 21 at Ohio State University, sources close to the Republican said Sunday.

Kasich, 63, has been laying groundwork for a national campaign for months, following his landslide re-election victory last November.

His travels, paid for by his allies at the nonprofit political group New Day for America, have taken him to early primary states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. Last week he made his first foray into Iowa, the first caucus state. And he recently tapped two experienced GOP operatives -- strategist John Weaver and ad man Fred Davis -- to help chart his course as a White House hopeful.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Police-community tensions: A pressing issue that most presidential candidates don't like talking about

The many candidates running to lead America are saying little, if anything, about how they would handle one of America's most pressing challenges.

A string of deadly police encounters in cities across the country -- including in Cleveland, where Republicans will gather next year to officially select their presidential nominee -- demands questions about race relations and criminal justice reforms.

But national reporters covering the crowded 2016 field have at times seemed more preoccupied with whether White House hopefuls would attend a gay wedding or, with the benefit of hindsight, whether they would have invaded Iraq in 2003.

The asks are few. The answers are even fewer.

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