Kasich jump-starts campaign in Michigan

Jennifer Chambers, and Chad Livengood
Ohio Governor and Presidential Candidate John Kasich speaks at the The Oakland County Republican Party and the 9th District Republican Party’s Calvin Coolidge Breakfast in Southfield.

Southfield — Balancing the federal budget, rebuilding the U.S. military and sending a signal that the American dream is alive are three goals of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who spent Saturday campaigning in Michigan for president.

Hoping to build a groundswell of support in the neighboring state after his late entrance into the GOP presidential campaign, Kasich made a stop in Southfield Saturday morning, reaching out to more than 120 supporters who came to see what the former congressman had to say.

“Let's talk about why we are here: to grow the economy, create a jobs. Once we have that, everyone must share,” Kaisch said to the group.

Kasich, blunt in his demeanor, boasted of his background as a budget balancer in Washington. He also shared his views on immigration, Common Core, Iran and Israel in a conversational tone as members of the crowd peppered him with questions.

“How do you balance a budget? You work through it, you privatize, you ship out and you innovate. This is very hard to do,” he said.

As for common core, a set of curriculum standards that has generated controversy nationwide, Kasich said “Washington doesn't set standards. Local control is the order of the day. A president shouldn't run the K12 system.”

Kasich is in favor of closing the border but does not support shipping those who are already in American back to their homeland.

“We should have a guest worker program,” he said.

Kasich’s trip to Michigan marks his third time he’s visited the state this year — the most of any presidential candidate to date — to court potential Republican voters in next year’s March 8 primary.

The 63-year-old former U.S. House Budget Committee chairman is making stops in Southfield, Grand Rapids and Grandville during a one-day swing through the state after his Tuesday presidential announcement before a crowd of 2,000 at Ohio State University.

Kasich appeared at the Calvin Coolidge Breakfast hosted by the Oakland County Republican Party and the 9th District Republican Party in Southfield. He later is scheduled to tour the Grand Rapids Brewing Co.’s microbrewery and then speak at an Ottawa County GOP Lincoln Day dinner in Grandville.

Kasich is telling voters he is the only GOP candidate with experience in three broad areas of political leadership — the federal budget, national security and state government.

Asked about helping Detroit’s neighborhoods enjoy the same economic recovery at the city’s downtown, Kasich said economic growth is everything.

“If you balance a budget you will see economic growth,” he said.

A look should be taken at deregulating provisions in inner cities that allow the governor and mayor more authority to “do what they need to do, to answer the bell, put out the fires,” Kasich said.

He said education systems need to be fixed, but said that is a local matter.

“As I look at Detroit and I’ve toured it, I know we have our problems. I know Rick Snyder looked at the problem, put someone in charge of the bankruptcies. He made the hard decision as a result you see some improvement in property values,” he said.

Bob Birach, an immigration attorney from Farmington Hills, came to see Kasich speak Saturday morning. Birach has voted Libertarian since 1976, but said Kaisch interests him because he has a track record of standing up for what’s right and helping the poor.

“I like his attitude. He reminds me of Harry Truman. He’s passionate, intelligent and when he is wrong he apologizes,” Birach said.

Like most of the people at the Saturday morning event, Joann Raeder, of Beverly Hills, came to see Kasich in person to get a feel for the candidate.

Raeder said she thinks Kasich is about working for the good of the community.

“And making sure everybody has equal right. He wants to give power to the people,” she said.

After nine terms in Congress, he worked for seven years at Lehman Brothers until the financial giant collapsed into bankruptcy during the 2008 financial crisis. He was elected governor of Ohio in 2010 and re-elected last November.

Kasich, known for having a blunt demeanor, doesn’t shy away from criticizing members of his own party for attacking the nation’s welfare programs, once accusing fellow Republicans of waging a “war on the poor.”

“That’s basically insulting your own partisan base,” said Matt Grossmann, associate professor of political science at Michigan State University. “I think it’s a long, uphill battle for the Republican nomination for Kasich because he hasn’t presented himself in a way that appeals to the dominant conservative activists who make the difference in Republican primaries.”

Dave Doyle, a Lansing political consultant and chairman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1991-95, said he has not taken a position on the candidates but thinks Kasich has done a great job as Ohio’s chief executive.

“He’s been an effective governor, improving the jobs picture there, getting finances under control in the state. And like Gov. Snyder he had a tough situation when he came in in 2011,” Doyle said.

Fellow Republican Rick Snyder has remained neutral in the race. But a day after ruling out a run for president, he told The Detroit News in an exclusive May 8 interview that he tends to favor someone who was a governor and not a senator — in part because voters should pick a candidate who can run a large operation like the federal government.

Two national consultants who worked on Snyder’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial campaigns are trying to help Kasich win the GOP presidential nomination.

John Weaver, a Texas-based former top adviser to Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaigns, is Kasich’s chief strategist. Hollywood-based advertising guru Fred Davis, who also worked on McCain’s 2008 campaign, is the lead media consultant for Kasich’s super political action committee.

Kasich also has hired Lansing-based Republican consultant Jeff Timmer for an on-the-ground presence in Michigan.

The Kasich campaign will likely focus on his similarities to Snyder with the hope they will persuade voters in Michigan who re-elected Snyder to a second term in 2014, said Susan Demas, publisher and editor of Inside Michigan Politics.

“They have a similar temperament as governors. They are pretty measured in their responses, and they are more pragmatic,” Demas said.

“Michigan and Ohio have similar issues. If Kasich is going to get off the ground, his national constituency would be the Midwest,” she added. “People there want to know his approach to the economy. They are interested in what plans as president he has to keep unemployment down and create job growth.”

Fundraising will be a challenge for Kasich, as it will likely be for most of the crowded 16-candidate field.

Kasich has struggled to break into the top 10 of candidates in national polls, meaning he may not get to participate in the first GOP presidential debate Fox News is hosting Aug. 6 in Cleveland — in his own state.

“Trying to break through the pack for any of these folks at the bottom will be difficult,” Doyle said.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also has signaled he intends to use his status as a neighboring governor to compete for voters in Michigan’s presidential primary.

Political analysts expect Kasich to remind Republican voters he hails from Ohio, a critical battleground state in each general election. No presidential candidate since John F. Kennedy in 1960 has won the White House without winning Ohio.

“Kasich could in some ways make a stronger general election argument than Walker could, but I don’t know how much Republicans are focused on that right now,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.