What will Kasich's homecoming to Ohio be like?

Posted at 11:39 AM, May 04, 2016

A governor who runs for president and fails often doesn’t get a warm homecoming.

Now as John Kasich is expected to end his presidential campaign today, many wonder what his Ohio homecoming will be like.

“His popularity, his approval rating in Ohio has really suffered,” said Paul Beck, a political expert at Ohio State University.

After Donald Trump's sweeping victory in Indiana Tuesday, Ted Cruz announced that he would suspend his presidential bid. If Kasich didn't follow suit and drop from the race, experts said it would hurt him at home.

“Continuing the campaign embarrasses him or should embarrass him,” Beck said.  “A lot of Republican voters aren’t very happy about it … they think he ought to be home doing his job as governor of Ohio.”

A new poll by Public Policy Polling found that Ohio voters were getting sick of Kasich’s campaign and neglecting his duties as governor.

This poll, conducted by a Democratic leaning group, also showed Kasich’s approval rating had slipped from 54 percent in March to 46 percent in April.

Six months ago, Kasich was enjoying a record high approval rating of 62 percent.

Many governors’ legacies suffer after a failed presidential bid, going back to former California Gov. Pete Wilson, former Massachusetts Governor Mike Dukakis, and former Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder.

More recently, other sitting governors who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016 all saw low approval ratings at home afterward.

*Chris Christie’s approval rating in New Jersey sits at its lowest point since taking office at 30 percent, according to a March survey.

*Bobby Jindal’s approval rating at home was near 20 percentwhen he dropped from the race in November, as Louisiana faced major budget issues.

*Scott Walker’s approval rating had been hovering around 40 percent during his short-lived presidential run, but it recently rebounded to 43 percent in Wisconsin.

“I actually don't expect Governor Kasich will take a hit with the voters in Ohio,” said Jared Kamrass, a political consultant at Rivertown Strategies.

“Though many Ohioans do not want him to remain in the race, they remain satisfied with his performance as governor,” Kamrass said. “Governors Walker, Christie, and Jindal have not had nearly the type of policy or electoral success that Governor Kasich has had in their home states.”

Yet Kasich was becoming the butt of national jokes.

“Quitters never win, but they still beat John Kasich,” Stephen Colbert said on his late show Tuesday night, shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his bid for the presidency.

Even President Obama cracked a joke about Kasich at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner on April 30, without mentioning him by name. “Some candidates aren’t polling high enough to qualify for their own joke tonight,” he said.

These jokes haven’t changed the enthusiasm of die-hard Kasich supporters such as Brad Johnson, president of University of Cincinnati College Republicans. He doesn’t think Ohioans will hold a failed campaign against Kasich.

“I think he will be very well received when he comes back home. He’s been extremely successful in Ohio,” Johnson said. “It helps him that Ohio is in very good financial standing right now. That’s the most important thing to people.”

Yet Ohio voters are particularly unhappy about having to pay for Kasich’s security detail. According to the recent PPP poll, 66 percent of voters were opposed to the taxpayer money that's gone to pay for his security on the campaign trail. Only 22 percent were OK with that expenditure.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper has called on Kasich to reimburse Ohioans roughly $82,000 spent on his security detail, staffed by Ohio State Highway Patrol, while on the campaigntrail.

“It’s clear that this race is long over,” Pepper said. “He’s wasting tons of taxpayer money paying for all of the security. At some point, when you’re being paid your salary by Ohio taxpayers and it’s obvious your campaign is going nowhere, you should do your day job.”

While Ohioans may want Kasich to come home, they still haven’t turned on him, said University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven.

“Is there a little bit of a political cost? Sure. But primarily from folks who aren’t inclined to like him in the first place, who see this as a vanity project,” Niven said.

Kasich can rebound from a bruising presidential race, Niven said, and he'll have two years to win back the favor of Ohioans. 

“I’ve seen this with candidates before: One of the upsides of losing is, ultimately, you become a footnote,” Niven said. “Whenever it’s over, he gets to come back and be governor and remind Ohioans of what he had done in office, and continue to do that for two more years.”