Since entering the race last July, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has taken something of a different approach from the other GOP candidates, defiantly moderate at times even as rivals reacted to the harsh rhetoric and bold ideas tossed into the mix by Donald Trump.
During a cycle marked by strong anti-establishment and anti-Washington sentiments, Kasich has not presented himself as an outsider but an experienced hand who could work in a bipartisan fashion.
From his very first year in college, Kasich looked to Washington. As a freshman at Ohio State University in 1970, he wrote a letter seeking a private audience with President Richard Nixon, talking about his passion for public service and his deep respect for the Republican president.
The White House ended up granting him five minutes with Nixon, but he refused to settle for that and took 20 minutes.
Kasich won an Ohio state Senate seat at 26 and in 1982 won a seat in Congress – the only Republican to beat a Democratic House incumbent in a tough GOP year. He quickly became an expert on the federal budget and, toward the end of his 18-year stint as a representative, he played an instrumental role in approving the last federal budgets that were not just balanced but also produced a surplus.
Kasich left Congress in 2001, shortly after an aborted White House bid, and went on air as a Fox News personality, hosting “Heartland with John Kasich,” a softer, somewhat lighthearted conservative talk show. At the same time he went to work at Lehman Brothers, where he helped connect the then-financial giant with Midwest banks, but left before the investment bank went belly-up in the midst of the recession.
In 2009, he hopped back into politics, running for governor of Ohio and unseating incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland in 2010. He won re-election in 2014.
As governor, he tussled with public employees’ unions and teachers but was ultimately forced to back down. He also approved an expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, a Democratic priority he has often defended on the campaign trail as a sign of his compassion.
Kasich has talked extensively during the presidential race about his blue-collar upbringing in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh. In one of the first campaign ads, a pro-Kasich super PAC went on-air with the story of Kasich’s father, “John the Mailman,” as part of a broader story about his small-town values.
Later on in his campaign, Kasich began bringing out his second wife, Karen, and their two daughters at campaign events.
He pinned his hopes early on New Hampshire and dedicated the vast majority of his time and resources there.
His focus there helped him win the support of key New Hampshire figures, including former Sen. John E. Sununu, son of former New Hampshire Gov. John H. Sununu, and veteran New Hampshire Republican leader Tom Rath (who was instrumental in Mitt Romney’s 2012 bid). He has also won endorsements from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nashua Telegraph and other New Hampshire papers.
Now he’s looking to elbow out Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to claim the support of the GOP establishment.