Sunday was another day of work for Gov. John Kasich, who once again appeared on a network TV news show to discuss national issues – and say again that he’s not running for president. That’s becoming increasingly hard to believe for some people. And it’s also drawing criticism from those who say the governor should spend more time at his “day job”.
Kasich closed out his segment on NBC’s “Meet the Press” by touting the show’s tag line with host Chuck Todd, who said, “You’re a veteran of coming on this show, so, I appreciate it.” Kasich responded: “You know, if it’s Sunday, it’s ‘Meet the Press’.”
Kasich knows the line well not just because he’s likely a frequent viewer. He’s also a frequent guest. The Columbus Dispatch analyzed his Twitter account and found Kasich has appeared on national TV 39 times since the start of the year – on shows on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. And not just news shows. He’s taken his criticism of President Trump to “The View” on ABC, to “Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, to “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central.
Many of those 39 national TV shots came out of a tour to promote Kasich’s book. But the Dispatch analysis says Kasich has done 37 official appearances in the state where he serves as governor – that includes press conferences, bill signings, speeches and other activities. Kyle Kondik is an Ohio native who’s now the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the newsletter of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “The governor, I think, is trying to keep his name out there and stay relevant as his time as Ohio governor ends,” Kondik said. “And it certainly is natural to wonder whether Kasich, who’s already run for president a couple of times, if he is gearing up to potentially run again in 2020.”
Kasich demurs when he gets that question – which happens a lot. It did on “Meet the Press” this weekend, specifically about whether he’d run with Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. “'Kasich-Hickenlooper’ – first of all, you couldn't pronounce it and secondly, you couldn't fit it on a bumper sticker.” Todd interrupted: "That's not a denial. Just because you can't fit it on a bumper sticker – " Kasich shot back: "The answer is no, the answer is no."
But whether Kasich is building another presidential campaign or just seizing the time in the spotlight to share his thoughts on national issues, it does irritate some people – including Ohio-based reporters.
Tyler Buchanan is the editor of the Athens Messenger. He blasted Kasich’s continued commentary on national TV in two recent columns – one calling him the “Green Screen Governor”, and another suggesting “44 Places Kasich Could Visit If He Learned Southeast Ohio Existed”. Buchanan said most people didn’t begrudge him talking about national issues when he was an active candidate for president. “It’s just, now that that candidacy is over, here he is spending the whole 2017 both talking about national issues and then talking about 2020 so much, though he denies it,” Buchanan said.
But Kasich has always maintained he is focused on Ohio issues – even saying he delayed launching his campaign for president because of the state budget process. In September 2015, he made clear he was in charge in Ohio while he was on the road campaigning. “There’s these things called ‘telephones’, ‘cell phones’. And I’m constantly working with all the staff, and I’m back here.”
Kyle Kondik agreed that in his view, Kasich’s absence while campaigning didn’t seem to create a problem for Ohio at the time. But back in Athens, Tyler Buchanan said Kasich should be focused on the concerns of the state such as the opioid crisis and infrastructure needs. “I would just say if I had a chance to talk to Kasich now, I’d just say we invite you down here,” Buchanan said. “I know any community would be welcome to have a sitting governor visit their community and see some of the positives and some of the challenges going on.”
It should be noted that one of the reasons Kasich is often interviewed is because he wants to continue Medicaid expansion, which affects 700,000 Ohioans. And his spokesman Jon Keeling said in a statement: “Anyone who has been paying attention over the past seven years knows there is no governor who has worked harder to bring more positive change to their state than John Kasich.”