For the 2nd year in a row, John Kasich, candidate for Ohio Governor, was the keynote speaker at a Lincoln Day Dinner for the assembled GOP’s of Sandusky County, Seneca County, and Ottawa County. The speech he delivered last night, Feb. 18th, was significantly retooled from last year’s speech. His opening remarks still need further retooling, but the rest of his speech showed a marked improvement over last year’s speech.
Among the others also addressing the assembled crowd were 5th Congressional District Representative Bob Latta, State Senator Karen Gillmor, Ohio Supreme Court Justices Judith Lanzinger, Paul Pfeifer, and Terrence O’Donnell. About 350 people attended the event, overflowing the venue’s parking lot capacity, and stuffing the venue itself like sardines in a can.
During Kasich’s opening remarks, the gubernatorial candidate clumsily announced his campaign had a gender gap problem, dropping the names of women who were running his campaign, mentioning his running mate, Mary Taylor, and afterward, referring to his wife and twin 10-year-old daughters. He quipped that he didn’t have any men in his inner circle, thus he had a gender gap problem. I don’t believe the audience was very amused, and I think the spiel came off as being very condescending. To further retool his opening remarks, I recommend that Kasich drop the “gender gap problem” quip. Instead he should say something like “At the outset, I wish to express my profound appreciation for . . .” and then, when stating each woman’s name, add some resume bullet-points for what each has accomplished on behalf of the Kasich campaign and the strengths that each bring to the table. Working on a campaign is a temporary job. At some point, when Kasich’s campaign has wrapped up at the end of the year, these women will be looking for work again. There were people in the room who might possibly be in a position to hire these women in the future, so Kasich had an opportunity to advance their careers by publicizing their accomplishments and strengths. He didn’t do that. If Kasich is going to bring his family into the political arena by mentioning his wife and daughters in a public speech, it wouldn’t hurt to point out their strengths as well, much like newly elected U.S. Senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, proudly touted the strengths of his wife and daughters. Kasich didn’t do that either. Instead, without pointing out the strengths of the women who form the backbone of his campaign effort, but merely rattling off names and job titles, Kasich almost seems to be invoking the image of a sheik surrounding himself with a harem. The lack of a mention of men’s names in Kasich’s acknowledgments would have spoken for itself without having to try to be cutesy and coming across as condescending with the “gender gap problem” quip. After expressing his appreciation for each woman and touting their accomplishments and strengths, Kasich could have led the crowd in a round of applause in honor of the important contributions of these women. Retooling the message in a manner similar to what I’ve recommended here might lead to a warmer reception from Kasich’s audiences.
For the remainder of the speech, Kasich deftly shed the perception of being a Washington insider, talking about his Congressional battles to curb government spending even in defiance of prominent politicians in his own party. He recounted an experience when he was not satisfied with either the Democrat version of a budget bill or the Republican version of a budget bill, so he gathered his staff together to craft their own budget bill. He said his budget bill crafting team included just 7 other people in addition to Kasich, himself, in contrast to the huge cadre of White House staffers that drew up President George Herbert Walker Bush’s budget, or the plethora of lobbyists that handed a budget proposal to the Democrats. Kasich stated that he sought accountability and savings from every government agency, including Republican establishment sacred cows like the Pentagon budget that procured such ordinary items like nuts and bolts at grotesquely overinflated prices. In response to his renegade budget bill draft, a loud and clear message was delivered to Kasich that the President, from his own political party, George H. W. Bush, was angry with Kasich. With dogged determination, Kasich continued his advocacy for a balanced budget, in line with his core principles of limited government, limited taxes, limited spending, and a private economy poised for growth, and eventually the unrelenting advocacy paid off with a balanced budget during the Clinton administration that was muscled through in the wake of a series of government shutdowns. His highlighting of experiences wherein he took on the insiders within his own party was Palinesque, and possessed the same appeal to the audience that Sarah Palin might invoke during a similar recounting of taking on entrenched interests within her own party.
Kasich further distanced himself from Washington by pointing out that it will soon be 10 years since he has served in public office, touting all the things he learned about the real world outside of Washington in the private sector economy that he will reference to aid Ohio’s recovery if he is elected as Ohio’s governor. He acknowledged that those whose careers consist entirely of politics are too far removed from the conditions that the rest of the nation’s population experiences. He vowed to reverse the conditions that have chased corporations, investors, and entrepreneurs away from Ohio. He also sounded a note of inclusiveness in his campaign and approach to governing, letting audience members know that he was as frustrated as other Ohioans and that he was eager to band together with other Ohioans to make a collective effort to reform our state government and turn around Ohio’s economy. As evidence of his inclusiveness, he pointed to his 88-county house party, where, with the aid of modern technology, he and Mary Taylor were able to communicate simultaneously with gatherings of Kasich-Taylor supporters in every county of Ohio.
His frequent repetition of his commitment to creating the necessary conditions to expand the private sector economy of Ohio through limiting government’s scope, increased efficiency and accountability of state government, a drop in state spending and state taxes, and balancing state budgets without punishing Ohio households and businesses by imposing fee increases appealed to audience members sympathetic to the Tea Party movement. Kasich didn’t have to invoke the quip of “I was the Tea Party before there was a Tea Party” to drive his point home. He let the audience members connect those dots themselves, thus avoiding a condescending tone, . . . and he can do the same in in his opening remarks (hint, hint).