John Kasich is writing his way toward another White House run.
The Ohio governor, who lost the Republican nomination to Donald Trump in 2016 and might challenge the sitting president in the 2020 primaries, has authored five guest columns for news organizations in the last 11 days. Each one critiques Republicans in Washington — mostly Trump, but also Congress — on policy grounds, with Kasich advancing his own ideas.
Kasich advisers told BuzzFeed News that the op-ed binge is evidence that he is viewed as a thought leader representing an alternative point of view in the Trump era. But it’s also the latest sign of spadework in what could be Kasich’s third presidential campaign. Kasich has kept his political organization active, met with national security and foreign policy experts to stay fresh on global affairs, and spent considerable time in New Hampshire, the first primary state.
“We understand that policy is politics,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist. “That seems to be lost certainly within the Trump administration and leadership of our party in Washington.”
Kasich began his series May 29 in USA Today, tackling immigration and Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He called on more House Republicans to sign a discharge petition and force a vote on legislation that establishes a path to citizenship. A day later, May 30, Kasich scored a Wall Street Journal byline with a push for changes to entitlements — a concept he championed as a House Budget Committee chair in the 1990s, but something elusive ever since, even with another champion in Speaker Paul Ryan.
Kasich returned Tuesday with a Boston Globe column arguing for a much tougher stance on Russia than Trump has taken. Trump’s name didn’t appear in the piece, but the contrast was hardly subtle for those paying close attention. (“We must make it clear to the Kremlin leadership that it can expect a series of decisive joint allied responses if its aggression continues.”) And the Globe just so happens to have wide circulation in neighboring New Hampshire.
On Wednesday, a 3,800-word Kasich manifesto landed in Foreign Affairs. The governor was heavily critical of Trump, chiding the president for his protectionist trade policies, his exit from the Iran nuclear deal, and his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The fifth Kasich column, pegged on trade, came Friday from Canada's Globe and Mail, coinciding with the G7 summit in Quebec. (Kasich also issued a tweet blasting Trump’s call earlier Friday for Russia to be readmitted to a group of leading industrial nations.)
Kasich’s brand of Republicanism is more moderate than Trump’s and rooted in the fiscal conservatism and open-border internationalism that once thrived in the party. Weaver believes many in the party agree with Kasich on these issues but, “for some reason — fear, what have you — they are not speaking up, which is a dangerous situation for our country and our party.”
A primary challenge would be tricky for Kasich or any other Republican interested in one. Party chairs in New Hampshire and other early states say they don’t see much demand for a rival, and the Republican National Committee has pursued rules to ward off other candidates. Kasich also is giving thought to running as an independent, a path that would bring different hurdles.
The recent op-eds resulted from pitches Kasich made to the publications, and vice versa, Weaver said. Future columns this summer could focus on trade and foreign policy.
“He is very much engaged in this and wants to make sure the positive path forward is represented in the public discourse,” Weaver said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not he runs.”