John Kasich’s positive message may not play as well going forward

Published: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 @ 1:12 PM
Updated: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 @ 7:42 PM

Ohio Gov. John Kasich is selling himself as the voice of “light,” a positive alternative in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

Political experts say it is unclear how that message will resonate as Kasich takes his campaign into more conservative southern states and in an atmosphere where large swaths of the electorate are just plain mad.

“I appreciate what Gov. Kasich is trying to do, but I think it cuts against the grain of where the electorate is right now,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of Cedarville University’s Center for Political Studies. “I am not sure it’s a viable long-term strategy.”

In a speech after his second-place showing in the New Hampshire Republican primary Tuesday night, Kasich told supporters that he had prevailed with a positive message despite millions spent on negative ads against him.

“We never went negative because we have more good to sell than to spend our time being critical of somebody else,” Kasich said. “And maybe, just maybe, in a time when clearly change is in the air, maybe just maybe we’re turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning.”

The message worked well for Kasich in New Hampshire, a state where moderates and independent voters are strong. But ultimately Kasich did not prevail against the harsh rhetoric of businessman Donald Trump, who led the race with with 35 percent of the vote, more than twice the 16 percent garnered by Kasich.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas placed third with 12 percent, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush with 11 percent, just edging U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who also took 11 percent.

“Kasich finished second. He deserves credit for that,” said Kyle D. Kondik, political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

But, said Kondik, “New Hampshire pretty overwhelmingly voted for the pitchfork candidate, which is Trump.”

Kasich could not be reached for comment for this story.

On Wednesday New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina dropped out of the race after poor showings in New Hampshire.

Kasich is not alone among the GOP field in attempting to take the high road. Bush originally made a point of saying he would stay positive, although as he struggled to gain traction he’s backed away from that to some extent. Rubio also has sometimes taken a more optimistic tone, but political experts say the prominent tone on the GOP side is one focused on reaching people who believe there is much wrong with the country, its direction and Democrats.

“By any reasonable measure the electorate right now is upset. Candidates who are running based on that tend to be doing well right now,” Smith said. “Right now the depiction of government is negative, and people are feeding in to that.”

He said that is how Trump can get away with repeatedly making debunked statements, like his claim Tuesday that the unemployment rate in the U.S. could be as high as 42 percent not the 4.9 percent reported by the government.

“It deeply distresses me. I would love for our politics to be rational, for it to be argumentative, for it to be principled, for it to be evidence-based,” Smith said. “But we live in a visual culture where television and visual imagery is the dominate medium and those kinds of things kind of fall to the wayside.”

It isn’t unusual for the party out of power to preach gloom and doom in an effort to unseat the incumbent party, said Kondik.

“Republicans see a political advantage in using apocalyptic language in part because they’re trying to suggest that the current administration, which is a Democratic administration, is not doing a good job,” Kondik said. “And to the extent that they can make Obama look bad and make his approval ratings worse, they also make it likelier that they will win the election.”

It is arguable that the country was in far worse shape when Barack Obama first ran for president in 2008 and when Ronald Reagan ran in 1980 than it is now. But both candidates were known for their positive messages of hope, themes that resonated with voters and sent them to the White House. Kasich is one of many Republicans who name-check Reagan and his shining “city on a hill” and “morning in America” quotes.

“Even though President Obama and President Reagan were very optimistic in their campaign proposals, they were very critical of the current state of affairs,” said Smith. “But they delivered the message with a very positive tone.”

Even though the economy is on the mend, nagging issues leave voters feeling insecure and angry, said Paul Leonard, adjunct professor of political science at Wright State University. He said people are worried about job security, lack of retirement savings, poor educational options and the possibility of another war.

He said it has created “an army of discontent.”

“It’s not a matter of being in bad times, it’s a matter of being in a time of uncertainty,” said Leonard. “I think you combine that uncertainty in people’s lives with the persuasive power of people like Donald Trump, and I think that makes for a dangerous mix.”

Leonard was encouraged by Kasich’s strong showing in New Hampshire because he hopes Kasich is right, that a majority of people do want politicians to be positive and solution-oriented.

“His style is completely different than Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Ted Cruz is dark. Donald Trump is dark. John Kasich is light,” Leonard said.

Democratic political strategist Dale Butland isn’t so sure the Kasich that residents of New Hampshire saw is the real John Kasich.

“The Prince of Light and Hope is a far cry from the old John Kasich that we know and love here in Ohio,” said Butland, who is spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate P.J. Sittenfeld and former press secretary and chief of staff to retired U.S. Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio.

“(Kasich once) talked about running people over with his bus if they didn’t knuckle under. And he called a police officer an idiot,” Butland said. “So the question for South Carolina and beyond is which John Kasich is going to show up: Dr. Jekell or Mr. Hyde.”

Kondik and Leonard both believe Kasich has evolved and matured.

“For people who know Kasich in Ohio, it’s not natural for them to think of him as a kumbaya candidate, but that is what he was (in New Hampshire),” Kondik said. “And to Kasich’s credit, I think he came into office with more of a partisan edge than he’s shown.”

Kondik pointed to Kasich’s expansion of Medicaid to help poor people get covered under the Affordable Care Act, a move that infuriated conservatives and for which he well may pay as the primary battle heads into more conservative terrain than New Hampshire.

South Carolina is the next primary state and has a history of some rather nasty battles. Nice might not play well, said Leonard.

“I think it’s going to be a real heavy lift (for Kasich) in South Carolina,” he said.

Smith agrees.

“I think Kasich’s argument can work well in New Hampshire because they have a lot of independent voters. You’re trying to preach compromise and problem solving,” Smith said. “But when you get into deeply Republican states, that’s not going to be a message that resonates.”

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Fire Mueller? Don’t do it, Ohio Republicans say

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:52 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:52 PM

            Robert Mueller on Feb. 16, 2011, as he testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (James Berglie/Zuma Press/TNS)
            James Berglie
Robert Mueller on Feb. 16, 2011, as he testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (James Berglie/Zuma Press/TNS)(James Berglie)

Most Ohio lawmakers on Capitol Hill — including Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton — say it would be a mistake for President Donald Trump to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, though taking action to block the president from doing so has more opposition among local Republicans.

“We need to let Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation go forward,” said Turner, R-Dayton. “He is looking at important questions: what was the activity that was undertaken by Russia, how do we stop it in the future, and what actions may have been undertaken by Russia with the presidential campaigns?”

RELATED: White House says there are no plans to fire Mueller, Rosenstein

Emily Benavides, a Portman spokeswoman, said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein “has already stated that only he can fire the special counsel and he believes there is no cause to do so. Rob has said numerous times that it would be a big mistake to head down this path.”

Portman, however, is not certain a bill to protect Mueller is constitutional. In an interview last week on CNN, Portman said “the president has the constitutional right to be able to hire and fire people who work for him. As my lawyers have looked at the legislation … they believe it is not consistent with that constitutional right.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, said Trump “has the right” to fire Mueller but added the president has “been very clear he’s not going to do it. I don’t know how many times he has to say it.”

Calls by some conservatives to fire Mueller intensified after an April raid on the home and offices of Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Although the raid was conducted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and not Mueller’s office, some see it as an example of the special counsel expanding the probe beyond its original purpose.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said Trump is to blame for how long the investigation is taking. “I just wish the president would put everything on the table, would quit stonewalling, tell us everything and get this investigation done with,” Brown said. “It’s gone and on and on because the president continues to call people names and continues to tweet that there’s nothing there and then things are found.”

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, has expressed concerns about the Mueller probe, but agreed it would not be “advisable” to fire him. But Davidson said he would probably vote against a bill protecting Mueller from firing, preferring instead a measure questioning the amount of money the Justice Department is spending on the probe.

“We’re OK with you launching an investigation. We support letting Justice have its blindfold on and restoring credibility to the Department of Justice. But we are concerned the actions of the special investigator are working at odds with that,” he said.

Mueller, a former director of the FBI, was named special counsel last spring after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from investigating potential contacts between Russian intelligence officials and Trump aides.

Because of Mueller’s investigation, federal grand juries have indicted 13 Russian nationals for trying to interfere with the 2016 campaign. In addition, Paul Manafort, who for a time managed Trump’s 2016 campaign, and Rick Gates, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, were indicted on charges of money laundering in connection with the Ukraine government

Gates, former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to making false statements and are cooperating with Mueller’s investigators. But no information has been made public about whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tip the election toward Trump.

Presidents have the power to fire people in the executive branch. In October of 1973, U.S. Solicitor General Robert Bork carried out President Richard Nixon’s order to dismiss Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox who was investigating the Watergate break-in.

Bork obeyed Nixon’s order after U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than fire Cox and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus was fired when he refused to dismiss Cox.

Known as the Saturday Night Massacre, Cox’s dismissal intensified calls for Nixon’s impeachment and directly led to his resignation as president in August of 1974.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, predicted a similar outcome if Trump fired Mueller.

“Let me be perfectly clear — firing Robert Mueller or appointing a new deputy attorney general with the express purpose of stonewalling this investigation would be an egregious abuse of power, and an impeachable offense,” Ryan said.

Rep. Stive Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, said Mueller should “follow the facts wherever they may lead. I look forward to seeing the results of his investigation, and hope it reaches a conclusion soon.”

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said he would “like to see this investigation carried out fairly, thoroughly, and expeditiously.

“I look forward to the conclusion and findings of the investigation so that we can move forward with the work the American people sent us to Washington to do,” he said.

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Welfare reform caught up in passage of farm bill in Congress

Published: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:47 PM
Updated: Sunday, April 22, 2018 @ 2:47 PM

            Welfare reform caught up in passage of farm bill in Congress
Welfare reform caught up in passage of farm bill in Congress

Republicans’ next big push for welfare reform has come courtesy of a bill designed to pay for the nation’s farm programs.

The federal farm bill, which expires Oct. 1, is aimed at providing federal support to farmers who may need it during tough times. But roughly 80 percent of the bill goes to federal food assistance, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, making the bill’s passage traditionally a bipartisan affair, with urban and rural lawmakers joining forces to both help feed the poor and to keep farmers facing rough times from being driven out of business entirely.

RELATED: House panel moves to curb food stamps

But this year’s bill has been different. Instead, to Democrats’ fury, House Republicans see the farm bill as an opportunity to take a crack at welfare reform.

A bill passed on party lines by the House Agriculture Committee last week would significantly beef up current SNAP work requirements. Republicans say the program should shrink – the economy has improved and the program was designed to be a hand up, not a hand out. Democrats, meanwhile, say it’s cruel.

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy, compares it to the unemployed good friend who moves in with you. “You’d be like, ‘hey, man, I’m glad to help you out for awhile, but are you going to go to any job interviews?’” he said. “We would do that! And somehow when the government does it it’s mean. And we have to be willing to do what we would do even for our friends or we’re not going to get this spending under control.”

Counters Melissa Boteach, the senior vice president of the Poverty to Prosperity program at the left-leaning Center for American Progress: “Taking away someone’s food isn’t going to help them find a job any faster.”

Here’s how the bill would change work requirements: Current law requires able-bodied adults between 18 and 49 with no dependents to work at least 20 hours a week or receive an equivalent amount of job training in order to receive the benefits.

They’re allowed to be unemployed for three months during a three-year period, but beyond that, face the risk of losing their benefits. And states have the flexibility to loosen that requirement or beef it up, depending on their preference. The disabled, seniors, and those taking care of children are exempt from the work requirement.

The bill passed last week by the House Agriculture Committee changes that age range to the ages of 18 to 59. It also imposed the work requirements on those with children over age six. And it imposed a set of progressively tougher sanctions for those who can’t prove they’re working or receiving job training, starting with the loss of benefits for a year.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, said the new requirements include “some of the most punitive provisions I’ve ever seen in doing 30 years of doing this work.”

“I’ve never seen anything as cruel as this piece of legislation,” she said.

But its defenders say the bill will help refocus the program into one that helps those who cannot help themselves.

“The economy’s in great shape,” said Robert Doar of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “There are opportunities out there. The labor force participation is still below what it was at the beginning of the Great Recession. There are still people who are eligible to work who are remaining on the sidelines.”

He said more than nine million Americans to receive the benefits “could work.”

“I think most Americans believe the purpose of programs like the food stamp benefit is to help people move out of poverty through earnings, not to keep them more comfortable or less uncomfortable in poverty,” he said.

SNAP helps to feed some 40 million low income Americans. In Ohio, Hamler-Fugitt said, some 1.4 million people participate. Of that group, more than 700,000 are children. Some 200,000 are seniors. And 360,000 are people with disabilities.

The bill also federal dollars to help states create job training programs for those who must meet the work requirement.

Democrats, however, argue that money isn’t nearly enough.

Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Cleveland Democrat who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said states will have to develop training programs to comply with the bill. And there’s no requirement, she said, that training leads to work. “We are, in fact, creating a bureaucracy at the state and local level,” she said, saying that the bill doesn’t include enough money to actually pay for that bureaucracy.

But Doar disputes the notion that the bill underfunded the job training programs, saying states and localities also have job training resources. “I think they could make substantial, significant progress to helping people move out of poverty with the resources being offered here,” said Doar, a former commissioner of social services for the state of New York.

Rep. Jim Jordan, an Urbana Republican who has long championed welfare reform, said the move is overdue.

He said reforming welfare would “help everyone – help the economy, help the budget, help employers and most importantly, help people stuck in the dependency welfare lifestyle.”

“Every single day when I’m out an about in the district, I’m talking to employers who are finding it difficult to find people to work,” he said. “There are employment needs out there.”

Still, he’s not sure if he’ll back the bill when it comes to the floor of the House, he said in an interview this week. He’s concerned about the money devoted to workforce development. “I’m nervous about another government program,” he said. And he knows it will be a hard sell in the Senate, where the majority is far more narrow. He said if Congress can’t reform welfare as part of its agriculture bill, it should consider a short-term extension until it can do so.

“I want to make sure it’s the right tough love approach that is going to help people get a better position in life and recognizes the fact that the taxpayers are paying for this,” he said.


Follow our team on our Ohio Politics Facebook page and on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics


80 percent of the farm bill goes to federal food assistance

SNAP helps to feed some 40 million low income Americans.

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Family, friends provide loving tributes to Barbara Bush at funeral service

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 10:20 AM
Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 4:01 PM

VIDEO: Barbara Bush’s Funeral

Approximately 1,500 guests attended former first lady Barbara Bush's private funeral ceremony in Houston Saturday.

Barbara Bush, the wife of the nation’s 41st president and mother of the nation’s 43rd, died Tuesday at her Houston home. She was 92.

About 2,500 mourners paid their respect at a public viewing held Friday in Houston, The Associated Press reported.

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The service took place at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston. Jeb Bush delivered a eulogy for his mother. Longtime friend Susan Baker and historian Jon Meacham also gave remarks during the 90-minute service. Multiple musical selections were performed.

A procession followed, with burial at the Bush Library at Texas A&M University in College Station. Barbara Bush will be buried next to her daughter, Robin, who was 3 years old when she died of leukemia in 1953, The AP reported.

Notable guests included first lady Melania Trump, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, The AP reported.

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Barbara Bush funeral: George H.W. Bush wears special socks in literacy campaign tribute

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 1:02 PM
Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 2:02 PM

HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 21:  Former President George H.W. Bush, assisted by his son, former President George W. Bush, enter the church during the funeral for former First Lady Barbara Bush on April 21, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brett Coomer - Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images
HOUSTON, TX - APRIL 21: Former President George H.W. Bush, assisted by his son, former President George W. Bush, enter the church during the funeral for former First Lady Barbara Bush on April 21, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brett Coomer - Pool/Getty Images)(Pool/Getty Images)

Former President George H.W. Bush is known for wearing festive socks. He wore a special pair of socks Saturday to the funeral of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush, in tribute to her work in literacy awareness.

>> Read more trending news 

Barbara Bush, the wife of the nation’s 41st president and mother of the nation’s 43rd, died Tuesday at her Houston home. She was 92.

Bush family spokesman Jim McGrath posted on Twitter that the former president is wearing socks festooned with books.

McGrath went on to say that Barbara Bush's literacy campaign raised over $110 million in 30 years.

The private funeral ceremony is being attended by approximately 1,500 invited guests, including first lady Melania Trump, former President Bill Clinton, former first lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama.

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