Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) criticized his party for a lack of ideas Wednesday in a wide-ranging and occasionally combative interview with The Washington Post’s editorial board.
Kasich, who sees the April 26 primary in Maryland as a way to increase his delegate total, argued that neither of his rivals could win the presidency because of their negativity.
“If you don’t have ideas, you got nothing, and frankly my Republican Party doesn’t like ideas,” Kasich said. “They want to be negative against things. We had Reagan, OK? Saint Ron. We had Kemp, he was an idea guy. I’d say Paul Ryan is driven mostly by ideas. He likes ideas. But you talk about most of ’em, the party is knee-jerk ‘against.’ Maybe that’s how they were created.”
After Tuesday’s New York primary, where weeks of campaigning landed Kasich a half-dozen delegates, the governor repeatedly emphasized his conservative credentials while taking care to define what “conservative” was.
“I’m gonna kill the Commerce Department,” Kasich said. “I don’t know why you don’t have an Education Department tied to the Labor Department.”
Kasich derided the idea of a carbon tax – “I’m not big on tax increases” – and when challenged on the math behind his tax-cut plan, which many analysts say would increase deficits, he mocked the pretenses of experts.
“The Center for a Responsible Budget – what have they ever balanced?” he asked. “When there is certainty, both on the regulatory side, on the tax side, and on the spending side, you basically get economic growth. And look, if we find out that we’re getting off the path, then we’ll have to adjust.”
For more than a month, Kasich has been mathematically eliminated from winning the Republican nomination with the pledged delegates awarded in primaries. Tuesday’s result in New York came close to slamming the same door on Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, something the senator addressed in an impromptu Wednesday press conference. While Cruz went on to call Kasich a “spoiler,” the Ohio governor agreed with him on one point: Front-runner Donald Trump was not entitled to the nomination if he failed to reach a simple majority of 1,237 delegates.
“One time I made an 83 on my math test, and I did better than everybody else, and I asked the teacher: How come I don’t have an A?” Kasich said. “The teacher said, ‘an A is 90.’ I said, ‘Oh, I get it.’ Say he gets in there with 1,100 – go get the rest of ’em.”
Kasich went on to imagine a convention where he could appeal to Trump voters by respecting them. Citing his work in Ohio to calm tensions after a police shooting in Cleveland, Kasich said he’d advanced past his “bombast years, where I was pounding on everybody.” He boasted of Ohio’s fracking boom but emphasized that the state had probably “the most” regulation of the natural-gas industry in the country.
He also rejected the idea that he had moderated by opposing “birthright citizenship” when he was a congressman and endorsing it as a governor.
“I probably signed onto some bill,” shrugged Kasich. “Somebody probably walked up to me on the floor and said, ‘how ’bout putting your name on this?’ ”
At other points, Kasich vigorously defended his record. He said that changes to Ohio’s early voting law, opposed by Democrats, were simply fair and had been requested by local officials.
“Do you think 28 days of voting is restrictive?” Kasich asked. “How many other states have 28 days of early voting?”
Kasich made a few stabs at populism, criticizing the President Obama-era Federal Reserve for its multiple rounds of quantitative easing. To Kasich, that only resulted in companies “buying up more of their stock and making the rich richer.” He was otherwise light on criticism of the Obama administration.
On the District of Columbia, Kasich dismissed the idea of statehood or a vote in Congress.
“I just don’t see that we really need that, OK?” Kasich said. Referring to the Republicans who have stopped such proposals, Kasich said that “they know that’s just more votes in the Democratic Party.”
But as he pondered the question some more, Kasich softened.
“They send me a bill, and I’m president of the United States?” he said, “I’ll read your editorials.”
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · David Weigel