- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined the Republican presidential field Monday, casting himself as a battle-tested leader and less-strident conservative that he said his party needs to win the White House.

Invoking his long history of public service, Mr. Kasich, who served nearly two decades in Congress and is in his second term as governor, suggested that he is better prepared than less-experienced rivals and more accomplished than the long line of other current or former governors in the race.

“I have the experience and the testing, the testing, which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world,” Mr. Kasich said. “I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States.”

He becomes the 16th major candidate in the race and could be the final one to enter, save for former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore, who is expected to launch a long-shot bid next month.

The son of a mail carrier, Mr. Kasich brings a blunt, off-the-cuff style that could strengthen his appeal on the campaign trail with voters craving authenticity.

But his approach also has turned off some people, including party activists who say he often abandons basic conservative principles, sometimes in the name of his religious faith.

The 63-year-old has an uphill battle. The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows him in 11th place — just outside the top 10 who will appear at the first debate sanctioned by the Republican National Committee, scheduled for Aug. 6 in Ohio.

Mr. Kasich and his supporters, though, said he has a history of overcoming the odds and succeeding in elected office.

“Whether it’s balancing America’s budget, reforming and strengthening our armed services [or] restoring Ohio to prosperity, John Kasich has delivered a record of success and achievement that no one else in this race can match,” former Sen. John E. Sununu of New Hampshire said at the announcement event. Mr. Sununu has been a top surrogate for Mr. Kasich in New Hampshire, host of the first-in-the-nation primary.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, said Mr. Kasich is “simply out of touch with today’s middle class and working Americans.”

“Adding insult to injury, he brings more of the same divisive rhetoric and policies that are already prevalent among his 15 fellow contenders, which is the last thing America needs,” Ms. Wasserman Schultz said.

Mr. Kasich showcased his rambling, stream-of-consciousness style in his roughly 45-minute announcement, mocking ideological devotion and calling for more empathy for the less fortunate.

“People who have not been dealt the best hand in life, yeah, we want to hold them accountable, but the Lord wants our hearts to reach out to those that don’t have what we have,” he said. “I mean, that shouldn’t be hard for America. That’s who we are.”

He said he would strengthen the military and push for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He said those with mental illness or drug addiction should receive treatment rather than prison time, and he vowed to be a jobs president.

His chief accomplishment in Congress was authoring the 1997 balanced budget deal that helped produce the surpluses at the end of the Clinton administration.

“They said it couldn’t be done,” Mr. Kasich said Tuesday. “They said it was too big, too hard, too much politics, and we proved them wrong again and we balanced that federal budget.”

He did not seek re-election in 2000 and took a job as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. He also hosted a television show on Fox News. In 2010, he returned to politics and unseated Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

He easily won re-election last year in a landslide, proving he can win in a state that is thought to be pivotal to Republican chances of capturing the presidency. No Republican has won the White House without carrying Ohio.

The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics ranks Mr. Kasich in the third tier of candidates, saying he could be a fallback option for the Republican establishment if some of the other candidates, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, flame out.

But he faces a tough sell with conservative activists who say he has increased the size of government too much in Ohio.

“Medicaid enrollment in Ohio has far outpaced Kasich’s projections and more than doubled in cost,” said David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.

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