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.

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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."

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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