John Kasich has a résumé seemingly tailor-made for a serious run for the Republican nomination: blue-collar upbringing, congressional budget hawk, Fox News commentator, investment banker, successful two-term governor of Ohio.
But there’s just one problem, according to interviews with dozens of those who’ve worked in politics alongside him at various points over the past several decades: his short fuse.
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There was the friend who excitedly called Kasich to tell him he was about to announce a campaign for statewide office, only to get a letdown of a reply: “How stupid are you?”
There was the wealthy conservative donor he raised his voice to during a Koch brothers-sponsored conference, prompting a walkout.
There was the BP employee who, in the middle of a meeting, found himself the target of Kasich’s derision. “You know why oil and gas companies have a bad reputation?” the governor barked at him. “Because they deserve it.”
There was the professor who wrote Kasich, then a young state senator, a letter of complaint about his education policies. “When you learn to write a civil letter,” the brash lawmaker fired back, “I will respond accordingly.”
Kasich, 63, is far from the only politician to face questions about his temperament. During his presidency, Bill Clinton was known to have lashed out at those who worked in the White House. Chris Christie’s outbursts have become a trademark of sorts, proudly displayed in clips on the New Jersey governor’s YouTube channel.
But the tales of angry tantrums have dogged Kasich throughout his long career, from the state Legislature, to the halls of Congress, to the governorship. So much so that even the famously volatile Sen. John McCain once said of Kasich: “He has a hair-trigger temper.”
And as the governor — who will formally declare his presidential bid during a Tuesday appearance at The Ohio State University — steps into the glare of the national spotlight, it seems certain that the questions about his bedside manner will only intensify.
Kasich’s advisers say his bluntness will appeal to frustrated voters looking for a tell-it-like-it-is candidate who has sharp elbows and authenticity.
“Even when voters disagree with him, they respect his willingness to speak truthfully about his views,” said Chris Schrimpf, a Kasich spokesman. “Many wind up thanking him for being so refreshing.”
Normally I wouldn’t be a big fan of this kind of personality profile hit piece from the likes of Politico, but Kasich has been one of the more embarrassing Republican champions of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, so I see this almost as a “left-on-left” battle at this point.
The overall issue is whether a candidate can stake out the “blunt, refreshing” ground that Trump seems to own with many who don’t follow politics 24/7. If there is a plan to out-blunt Trump, I’m not sure America wants to see it.
Once the Trump noise fades, the Republicans will still have a “tell it like it is” candidate in the race named Ted Cruz, who just happens to be a guy who doesn’t love anything about Obamacare.