There is a lot to commend Ohio Gov. John Kasich as a candidate for president in 2016.
As a member of Congress he led the drive to produce three balanced budgets in a row. He leads an important state, presidentially, and is probably a safe bet to win re-election in 2014. He's got an "everyman" quality that helps him connect with voters, particularly the independents and Reagan Democrats that have, of late, fallen out of the GOP's presidential coalition. He also knows how to explain the business of government in plain English, something the Washington crowd seems to have forgotten how to do in all their talk of sequesters and debt limits and defunding.
One thing that is working against him, however, is his dogged determination to expand Ohio's Medicaid program to meet the requirements of Obamacare.
To Kasich, it's a matter of helping the poor, which is an argument that Republicans should be making more often. GOP candidates talk all too frequently about social policy changes in terms of numbers and acronyms while forgetting to explain how proposed changes will improve the lives of ordinary, hard-working Americans and those who are simply trying to get ahead or stay even. This leaves the party and its candidates open to charges they don't care about the disenfranchised, the homeless, and the disadvantaged and are instead merely looking out for the interests of "the one percenters."
The problem for Kasich is the GOP-controlled Ohio Legislature, which has been lobbied for months by grassroots activists opposed to the idea which has already removed Medicaid expansion from the state budget, is that he is threatening to go around them.
Kasich has said he will use the Ohio Controlling Board, a seven-member state body composed of officials from the executive and legislative branches of government who serve at the governor's behest and is empowered to make certain adjustments to the budget, to make the change he wants.
This is not the way to get things done. In Washington we already have an example of what happens when the chief executive refuses to acknowledge the wishes of the legislature and seeks to reign rather than rule. It would be a mistake for Kasich to use an administrative gimmick to get what he wants when the State House and Senate are so clearly opposed. Rather than do an end run he should stand up for the democratic process and take his case to the people. He can prove himself a leader and a communicator of Reaganesque proportions if he can successfully persuade the people of Ohio to lobby the legislature to give him what he wants. Even if he fails, he will win credit for having tried to get what he wants the right way rather than using all the power and tools at his disposal to win the fight.
America is looking for a president who believes in restraint in governance. It would be a shame if John Kasich were to put a blemish on an otherwise very strong record in favor of limited government and effective stewardship of the taxpayers' money by pushing through a massive expansion of an entitlement program that may in fact be collapsing under its own weight