In N.H., Kasich Comes Off as 'Moderate'; Ohioans See Different Side

Feb 4, 2016

During primaries, candidates usually try to appeal to their party’s hardliners. In New Hampshire, John Kasich has been doing the opposite: pitching himself as a mainstream politician with a bipartisan record. 

Ask a Kasich supporter what they like about him? You’ll hear something like this:

"Middle of the road...Not an ideologue...He’s more moderate.

  Of course, terms like “moderate” and “conservative” are in the eye of the beholder. And, candidates pick and choose what parts of their records to highlight.

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, John Kasich describes himself like this:

"Now I’m a Republican, but the party is my vehicle, it’s never been my master."

Karen Kasler is Statehouse Bureau Chief at Ohio Public Radio.

"Based on his record in Ohio, there are people who will point you to things they say show that Kasich is definitely conservative, he is definitely Republican party line on issues, and is just as conservative as any of them on the social issues."

Kasich is known for his anti-abortion efforts in Ohio, and was the face of a battle against public unions in the state. But how much of that reputation is making its way to New Hampshire?

In a smoky VFW hall in Raymond, Timmy Fortier is wearing a green Vermont steel-workers sweatshirt.

"I like that he’s not a full-force Republican."

Fortier says he’s not familiar with Kasich’s battles with labor:

"As someone that was a former union carpenter, I wouldn’t support it.  But I haven’t done my research into what actually happened."

Stratham resident Esteban Rubens is standing just feet from Fortier.

"I am a registered Independent and I voted for Obama twice."

Rubens says he’s pro-choice, and wishes Kasich were too. But, he says:

Kasich answers a question at an NHPR candidate forum
Credit Allegra Boverman for NHPR

"No one’s perfect. They all suck this year – they’re really quite awful. Clearly I have concerns, but you gotta pick someone, and I wanna vote, so."

On the campaign trail in New Hampshire, Kasich isn’t volunteering these parts of his record.  But he often brings up issues that put him at odds with his base, like backing common core, and expanding Medicaid.

"One thing that I did do that Ronald Reagan did, is I expanded Medicaid like you did in New Hampshire."

And while that’s working in his favor with voters like Fortier and Rubens, it could be working against him with voters like Richard Logan of Derry.

"He’s a little too moderate for me. My main concerns are religious issues, illegal aliens, jobs.  I’m a pretty right wing guy."

After seeing Kasich, Logan says, he’ll be voting for Cruz or Christie. Two candidates he says are “'quote' conservative."