Ohio Governor John Kasich, right,  may be testing the waters.

Everybody's Running (John Kasich Edition)

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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The news about the 2016 Republican nomination battle is: more of the same. That is, more and more candidates continue to move closer to formal candidacies, and pretty much no one is dropping out. Today's blip is Governor John Kasich of Ohio, who is making candidate-like clucks, including plans for a campaign-style book, on his way to an easy re-election victory (via Political Wire). Will he be running in 2016? We don't know. Is he running right now? Yup.

I've long been bullish on Kasich's prospects. As a former chairman of the House Budget Committee with a previous (albeit about five minutes-long) presidential flirtation, he has more experience with the national Republican Party than many other candidates. It appears he's going to have a more impressive re-election than most of the other governors who are running. And, well, as subjective evaluations go, I've always thought he was a pretty skilled politician.

As far as I can tell, the only policy mark against Kasich (for the nomination) is that he accepted Medicaid expansion in Ohio. I'm skeptical that would be a knockout blow. If Republicans could nominate Mitt Romney in 2012, I find it hard to believe that a little minor unorthodoxy on Obamacare would be disqualifying. However, it certainly won't help generate Tea Party enthusiasm for his candidacy.

Still, what distinguishes the 2016 Republican field -- especially from 2012 and 2008 -- is how many candidates appear to have avoided positions that would probably lead important party groups to try to veto them. Kasich fits nicely into that group.

His biggest problem may be that he doesn't seem to be anyone's natural first choice. Like Rob Portman, he is a bit of a generic Republican presidential candidate. On the other hand, many Republicans in 2008 and 2012 would have loved to have a few more generic candidates with conventional qualifications who were good on all the issues. Kasich may look like the safe choice a year from now.

At any rate, even though there's good reason a candidate running for something in 2014 would be reticent about explicit plans for 2016, no one writes a campaign-style book without having some intention of running. Kasich is in, for now at least. And he seems to have as good a chance at the nomination as anyone else.

  1. I've said that as Budget committee chairman, he struck me as the real deal compared with Paul Ryan. That is, Kasich really knew his stuff, and honestly advocated for legitimately conservative policy outcomes. On the other hand, he's apparently made a balanced-budget amendment some sort of cornerstone idea for his campaign ... I suppose everyone is entitled to some policy nonsense in their presidential campaign, but that's hardly an indication he's looking to challenge the post-policy tendencies of his party.

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Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Max Berley at mberley@bloomberg.net