The GOP has just received its 16th presidential nominee, officially making the phrase "crowded candidate field" the understatement of the year. Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced his 2016 presidential bid on Tuesday from the student union of his alma mater, The Ohio State University in Columbus. Kasich made the announcement flanked by his wife Karen and their twin daughters.
Speaking from the packed student union — which, ironically, lacked any Ohio State students — the Ohio governor spent the majority of his speech talking about the economic realities of ordinary Americans, including those who have lost their jobs in their twilight years or find themselves without health care. He also addressed the growing concerns among the African-American community, including racial violence and systemic racism, as well as at-home domestic terrorism, making a reference to the recent shooting targeting U.S. Marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The Ohio governor is running on the simple tagline, "Kasich For Us" — hey, when you're No. 16, all the good ones are taken. As always, the opening of the governor's speech was dedicated to the American dream, a long-running theme of presidential campaigns. "it’s this whole business of the American Dream ... to make sure that next generation is going to be in a position of greater strength than what we received," Kasich said before delving into his family's background, including the life of his Uncle George, who fought in World War II, and his father John, who served as a mailman.
"They gave up so much," Kasich said. "Because it was all about the next generation. … That American dream is pivotal for the future of our country. But I gotta tell you, there's a lot of people in America today who don't believe that American dream is possible."
Kasich is a long-shot to clinch the Republican presidential nomination, and it remains to be seen how his more-centrist viewpoints on issues such as Medicaid will play as other GOP candidates continue to shift to the right. On many issues, however, the Ohio governor fits right in with the religious right, notably on so-called "culture war" politics. The Ohio governor is staunchly anti-abortion, having signed abortion bans with no exemptions for victims of rape and incest, as well as legislation that shuttered nearly half of the state's abortion clinics. Kasich has also slashed funding for family planning, which does not include abortion, but contraceptive services.
But unlike fellow GOP challengers Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, who strongly opposed the Supreme Court's landmark decision to effectively legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Kasich is more open-minded. In June, Kasich said in an interview on CBS' Face of the Nation that "the court has ruled, and it's time to move on." Kasich himself is in favor of "traditional" marriage, but he acknowledged that Supreme Court's decision was now the law of the land, and "well abide by it."
Kasich stayed away from many of those controversial issues on Tuesday, instead choosing to focus his speech on the struggles of working- and middle-class Americans. He told personal stories from those he met across Ohio, from teachers and construction workers to doctors and preachers. "We are the glue that holds our country together," the Ohio governor said.
If anything, Kasich's speech was much more optimistic than the addresses of his fellow GOP challengers, who have taken a more defensive position. The governor did not criticize President Obama or make any attacks on policies he personally disagreed with, and avoided conservative buzzwords like "ISIS," "Obamacare" and "religious freedom." (Although he did throw in everyone's favorite, Ronald Reagan.)
"The sun is rising," Kasich said, to thunderous applause. "And the sun is going to rise to the zenith of America again. I promise you, it will happen."