Live from Council Bluffs, it’s John Kasich

Nebraska attorney David Begley continues his series of reports for us on the appearance of the presidential candidates in Iowa. Yesterday Ohio Governor John Kasich appeared in Council Bluffs. Dave was there and Dave was impressed. His report is below:

The candidate polling at 10 percent and tied for second in New Hampshire vote appeared before a full house last night in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The temperature was 14 degrees.

The format was a town hall preceded by a short stump speech. Yes, he played the mailman card but my sense is that it is a deep part of the genuine John Kasich. Yes, he also has government experience, but he has a fair claim to having fought the establishment through his career. He told a story of how he battled the nursing home lobby in Ohio to allow seniors to stay in their homes longer. In his closing statement claimed to have the experience to change Washington, solve problems and unify the country. I thought it was a good message.

The first question was from a guy from Springfield, Illinois. He was in Des Moines when he decided to drive to the western end of the state for this event. The man had on a yellow apron and a Kelly green yarmulke. (I am not making this up.) He asked a rambling and disjointed question that I didn’t understand. Governor Kasich, however, rescued the moment with a story about how Reagan worked with boll weevil Democrats to solve problems. (“I knew Ronald Reagan. I worked with Ronald Reagan.”)

The second question was about the national debt. He called up from the audience a 12-year-old girl and flatly stated that it was immoral for the government to saddle her generation with this problem. He then launched into his formula of creating jobs: cut taxes, balance the budget, freeze all regulations for one year and then get rid of the bad ones.

He drew big laughs when he said that he would not play favorites regarding tax preferences except for ethanol. Kasich’s rationale is that ethanol is set until 2022 and he wasn’t going to throw people out of jobs before then. [Ed.: Senator Cruz supports phasing out the ethanol mandate (the so-called Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS) over a five-year period. Kasich is kowtowing to the local gods.]

One question came from a guy who alleged that DC bureaucrats should go to jail and be fired. The head of the VA was cited. Governor Kasich knows the head of the VA; he used to be the CEO of Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble. Kasich’s view is that the former CEO (a West Pointer) has been overwhelmed by the government bureaucracy. The Kasich solution is to decentralize the VA and allow vets to go to any hospital.

With respect to the IRS he remarked that there might be criminal law violations committed by employees but abolishing the IRS was not realistic. He claimed that a flat tax would cost us trillions of dollars (a shot at Ted Cruz). The Kasich tax plan has three brackets and a 15% capital gains rate.

My question was about Donald Trump’s announcement on FOX News Sunday that he would make Saudi Arabia, Germany and South Korea pay us for defending them. Kasich shot right back to me, “Think they will pay?” He then went on to explain that the Europeans have been free riders but the way to fix the problem is to work with them in private rather than through public criticism.

Kasich said he needed to do well in New Hampshire and fully expected to do so. Because his campaign is not backed by billionaires he has focused on New Hampshire. He said if he does well in the Granite State, he will be president.

New Hampshire’s geography and population are conducive to small town hall meetings. It doesn’t surprise me that the governors of Ohio and New Jersey are polling well there; these two men excel in that format.

In one funny moment he asked an older woman for her vote and got on his knee and did so. In another light moment, he noted I was wearing a Creighton shirt and he asked about the basketball team. Better this year. Thanks for asking. We play Providence on Tuesday.

He displayed some frustration about Trump’s domination of the campaign so far and the nature of his campaign style. That’s consistent with my view of him as a happy warrior. At one point he compared himself to Jack Kemp and he said the GOP had to be for things and not just against things.

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