- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Republican presidential candidate John Kasich has become the party establishment’s lead attack dog against Donald Trump but so far hasn’t taken a bite out of the front-runner’s poll numbers.

The Ohio governor has sparred with Mr. Trump on the debate stage, assailed him in TV interviews and released a series of Web videos that question Mr. Trump’s suitability for the job of president and even compare him to a Nazi.

The ferocity of the attacks echo the growing frustration among Republican establishment candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who consistently lag far behind Mr. Trump, a billionaire businessman whose egocentric and insult-laden rants on the stump have struck a chord that continues to resonate with voters.

Most of the other Republican presidential contenders shave shied away from criticizing Mr. Trump, who demonstrated early in the campaign that he would brutally retaliate against his opponents.

Mr. Kasich said he was fed up with Mr. Trump’s harsh rhetoric.

“The issue of attacking Hispanics or Muslims or women or mocking somebody who is disabled, it is just not something that we want in a leader,” he told reporters this week at campaign stop in Iowa. “I think there are a lot of people that are glad that I am finally speaking out because nobody else is.”

Republican campaign strategist Douglas Heye agreed that the attacks were overdue, but he warned that Mr. Kasich could pay a price for being the tip of the spear.

“There’s a palpable sense of relief that someone is finally taking him to task, but at the same time, no one knows if it will be effective. That’s why other candidates and super PACs have been hesitant to take him on,” said Mr. Heye, a former adviser to the Republican National Committee.

“It could be the very definition of wrestling with a pig,” he said.

Polls haven’t registered an impact for either candidate since Mr. Kasich began speaking out against Mr. Trump at the Nov. 10 debate in Milwaukee.

The Real Clear Politics average of national polls showed Mr. Trump in the lead with 29 percent and Mr. Kasich tied for eighth place with Mr. Christie at 3 percent. The scores are similar in early-voting Iowa and New Hampshire.

“We’ve ignored John Kasich because even though his ads are highly deceptive and a lie, he is so low in the polls and doing so poorly that it is not worth our time,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks.

She continued: “Also, Gov. Kasich is a terrible debater; often coming in last and according to all polls Mr. Trump has won each debate. Additionally, Mr. Trump is beating the governor decisively in Ohio, his home state.”

Mr. Trump did single out the governor for abuse during a rally last week in Columbus, Ohio.

“Your governor is only 2 [percent in the polls]. What happened?” Mr. Trump told a crowd of about 14,000 at the city’s convention center. “Kasich? I heard he’s dropping out.”

Kasich campaign spokesman Rob Nichols said Mr. Kasich remains focused on competing in early-voting states, primarily New Hampshire.

The jabs from Mr. Kasich intensified in the past two weeks.

He ridiculed Mr. Trump for vowing to deport the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants, endorsing the idea of a database to track Muslims in the U.S. and mocking a disabled newspaper reporter.

The first video accused Mr. Trump of shifting his position on his support of a federal database to track Muslim Americans. Mr. Trump first endorsed the idea in response to a reporter’s question that was posed as Mr. Trump signed books in a crowded room.

Mr. Trump later claimed he did not understand the question and then said he would support a database to track Syrian refugees brought to the U.S., as opposed to Muslim Americans.

The video ended with script across the screen that asked: “Does Trump even know what he’s taking about?”

The next video used Martin Niemoller’s “First they came ” poem about the Nazis to draw a comparison to Mr. Trump’s comments about deporting Hispanics, tracking Muslims and condoning his supporters roughing up a black protester who was disrupting a campaign rally.

“If he keeps going and he actually becomes president, he might get around to you,” the video warned.

The most recent video, released this week, highlights the flap over Mr. Trump’s comments on the stump and contrasts him with some of America’s greatest presidents.

Set to somber piano music, it shows news clips of Mr. Trump making jerking moves to mimic a disabled newspaper reporter, whom Mr. Trump described as flustered when asked about an article he wrote after 9/11 about Muslim Americans celebrating in New Jersey.

“Is someone like Donald Trump really worthy of following in their footsteps?” reads text on the screen along with images of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. “Is he?”

Mr. Trump has been under fire for claiming he remembered thousands of Muslim Americans celebrating in New Jersey as the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani backed up Mr. Trump’s version of events, though he said Mr. Trump exaggerated the numbers.

“We did have some reports of celebrating that day while the towers were coming down,” Mr. Giuliani said on CNN.

Mr. Nichols said the Kasich campaign made a decision to aggressively confront a rival it views as a bully.

“We’re not frustrated,” he said. “We’re very happy with the state of our race, and we are happy to compare and contrast ourselves with [Mr. Trump],” he said.

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