Sunday, July 18, 1999
Kasich campaign was no failure
He fished, he bowled, he put the 'fun' in fund raising
BY HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Well, it was fun while it lasted. John Kasich's five-month run for the Republican presidential nomination ended last week when the Westerville Republican came to the realization that no amount of boyish charm and hyperkinetic campaigning could push the George W. Bush juggernaut off the track.
Mr. Kasich looked at the numbers $3 million raised to $36 million for Mr. Bush, microscopic poll numbers and decided to pack it in.
Michael Jordan scores on his last shot; Ted Williams hits one out of Fenway in his last at-bat, Mr. Kasich said at his exit press conference in Columbus on Wednesday. That's how I want to go out. At the top.
Now that might sound like a slightly goofy thing for a United States congressman and presidential candidate to say, and maybe it is.
But it is real; it is how the guy feels. Like a kid, he opens up his mouth and words fall out; and when they do, there is no doubt that he is saying exactly what he believes.
We spend a lot of time around candidates who are carefully scripted. Ask one of these a question and you can see the wheels turning; there is a slight pause while he searches his pre-programmed brain for the particular chip containing the answer planted by some high-paid consultant.
Have you ever heard Steve Forbes utter a sentence without the words hope, growth and opportunity?
Of course not. Such candi dates are well programmed.
Candidates like Mr. Kasich and they are rare are free-form artists; listening to him do a campaign stump speech is like listening to a Les Paul guitar riff.
Mr. Kasich might not have made much of an impression on Republican primary voters, but this is a serious character.
He might walk around talking about quoting Mick Jagger, but after 17 years in Congress, he knows how hardball politics is played. Since 1995, he has been House Budget chairman and there are a lot of people on Capitol Hill and elsewhere who believe that if he had not hung tough, there would never have been a balanced federal budget.
It is also clear that if, for good or ill, congressional Republicans end up passing a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut, it will be because the House Budget Committee chairman insisted on it.
He is giving up the suburban Columbus seat he has held since 1982. No one not even Mr. Kasich is sure what he will do next. But one has to think that, after endorsing George W. Bush, he has to be on the list of potential running mates and could certainly be in line for a high-profile job in a Bush administration.
So shed no tears for John Kasich and his failed campaign. In five short months he man aged to do a lot.
He toured bowling alleys of Iowa and rolled a 168 in blue-and-orange bowling shoes. He hit .500 in the Field of Dreams Shoeless Joe Jackson Celebrity Baseball tournament.
In New Hampshire, he tapped maple trees for sugar; got skunked fly-fishing in a trout stream for an Ike-style photo op; and drove a dog sled through the snow, up-ending a reporter when the sled went out of control.
Have you had that much fun lately?
Howard Wilkinson column runs Sundays. Call him at 768-8388 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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