Ohio governor joins White House race

Mr John Kasich is the 16th prominent Republican to enter the race.
Mr John Kasich is the 16th prominent Republican to enter the race.PHOTO: REUTERS

COLUMBUS (Ohio) • Governor John R. Kasich, a voluble and blunt-talking maverick who is hoping his upbeat vision for a united America can catapult him to the White House, says he has "the experience and the testing - the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world".

The 63-year-old son of a postman, Mr Kasich offers a centrist appeal designed to paint him as a common-sense Midwesterner who can fix a broken Washington.

He became the 16th prominent Republican to enter the 2016 field when he addressed several thousand cheering supporters at Ohio State University on Tuesday.

As a two-term governor in a critical swing state - no candidate since Mr John F. Kennedy in 1960 has won the White House without winning Ohio - Mr Kasich is a credible candidate, although his late entry means he has catch-up work to do.

His 43-minute, sometimes meandering speech, in which he avoided attacking President Barack Obama, was delivered with notes but no script and no teleprompter.

It was gritty and at times defiant. "They said it couldn't be done; I proved them wrong," he said, recounting naysayers he has met along the way.

And it was laden with his faith-inspired, if idiosyncratic, pearls of life wisdom.

In ignoring Mr Obama, the governor may have missed an opportunity to gin up enthusiasm on the Republican right - a constituency that is already suspicious of him because of some of his moderate policy positions, including his expansion of Medicaid under Mr Obama's health law.

"This is about the future and bringing people together," Mr John Weaver, Mr Kasich's chief strategist, said after the speech when he was asked about the omission. "Barack Obama is not on the ballot."

Mr Kasich is also highlighting his national security credentials (he spent 18 years on the House Armed Services Committee) and what he calls his "Ohio story", boasting of the US$2 billion (S$2.7 billion) surplus his state has amassed on his watch.

"We are going to take the lessons of the heartland," he said on Tuesday, "and straighten out Washington, DC."

Polls show about 2 per cent of Republicans back him.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Ohio governor joins White House race'. Print Edition | Subscribe