A Republican governor is cruising to re-election victory in a battleground state—but not in the way many Republicans might like. The Washington Post recently profiled Ohio’s incumbent governor John Kasich, a Republican who expanded Medicaid in his state under the Affordable Care Act, and also expanded spending in other ways sometimes controversial among the GOP faithful. At the same time, he has also taken some of his policies straight out of the mainstream Republican playbook, cutting taxes, eliminating an $8 billion deficit, and promoting pro-business regulations. WaPo:
John Green, director of the Ray Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, described Kasich as policy-oriented and immersed in the details. His blue-collar roots and religious convictions, Green said, have produced a governing philosophy that merges “sympathy with the welfare state with the idea of smaller government so there will be a higher rate of job growth and economic development.”The biggest piece of Kasich’s social-welfare agenda was his decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which he did with a partial end run of the legislature and over objections from conservatives in the state House and Senate. Asked how he came to that decision, Kasich said: “Faith is important to me. If you go through the Old and New testaments, there’s one thing that’s very clear. You’ve got to help people that are downtrodden and poor, and I just think that that’s part of our culture. You’ve got to help people that can’t help themselves.”
Both the left and the right criticize Kasich’s program, but in some respects, at least, it has borne fruit: under his tenure Ohio’s unemployment rate has gone from 9.1 percent to 5.7 percent, which is better than the national average (5.9). And his likely margin of victory is impressive: he currently has a double-digit lead over the Democratic candidate, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. That lead is due in part to scandals that have surrounded FitzGerald’s campaign, but Kasich’s record also seems to be resonating with a good portion of the voters.On the spectrum of state-level policy experiments Kasich is on the opposite side from Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, whose more traditional conservative agenda has run into serious opposition. As such, he’s someone to watch as an embodiment of one direction the GOP could go. Read the whole thing to get a deeper sense of how and why Kasich is doing so well, and what it could mean for the future of the Republican Party.