Ohio Gov. John Kasich made a relatively late entry to the 2016 race for the White House on Tuesday, becoming the 16th Republican to announce his candidacy.
Kasich, a former U.S. congressman, is likely to be the last prominent Republican to enter the field of 16 candidates. He will need to make a mark quickly to qualify for the party's first debate on Aug. 6.
"I believe I do have the skills and I have the experience and the testing which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world," Kasich told supporters at Ohio State University.
As the popular governor of an important swing state, Kasich has a record in both Washington and Ohio that could make him a heavyweight candidate.
A moderate Republican with a reputation for bluntness, Kasich ranks 14th out of 16 Republican candidates in a Reuters/Ipsos online poll, and he is in 12th place in the RealClearPolitics average of polls.
That puts him in danger of not qualifying for the first Republican debate. To take part, candidates must be in the top 10 in national polls by Aug. 4.
A selling point for the two-term governor will be the economic recovery in Ohio on his watch. Kasich says he guided the state's budget from an $8 billion deficit to a surplus without raising taxes, although Democrats says the U.S. economic recovery played a major part.
Kasich is popular in Ohio, likely to be a battleground in the November, 2016 general election. A Quinnipiac University poll in June gave him a 54 percent job approval rating there.
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich played a key role in balancing the federal budget with a bipartisan deal in 1997 under former President Bill Clinton.
Conservatives have criticized Kasich for taking federal money for an expansion of Medicaid in Ohio under President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
Positioning for a Debate Spot
Kasich may be the best-positioned candidate among those polling in the lower single digits for the first two debates — the first by Fox News and Facebook, and a second debate in September by CNN — that are using the highest averages of the five most recent credible national polls to pick the 10 participants.
"It's a very complicated thing, but what's striking is that almost everybody got at least a little discernible rise after the announcement," says Charles Franklin, director of polling at Marquette University, who has looked at how campaign announcements have moved national polls. "You get your moment, but it tends to be pretty ephemeral."
Like other candidates, Kasich and his supporters are doing everything he can to make his moment count. On Tuesday, the pro-Kasich group New Day for America will begin airing new television ads in New Hampshire and Boston, according to a person with knowledge of the plans.
"John Kasich helped to balance the federal budget, turned around the Ohio economy, and has 18 years' experience on the Armed Services Committee," the 60-second spot says. "No one else comes close."
The move is the next phase of a seven-figure media buy that Bloomberg Politics reported earlier this month, replacing another ad featuring Kasich that was already running in the New England area.
On Sunday, New Day released a five-minute extended version about the governor’s life and what, his team maintains, makes him unique from anyone else in the race. Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for New Day, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new ad.
Kasich will tape interviews with Fox News' Sean Hannity and ABC's George Stephanopoulos after his announcement on Tuesday, according to a separate person with knowledge of the campaign rollout plan. He will then make three-day swing through New Hampshire, stop in South Carolina and Iowa on Friday, and visit Michigan on Saturday, where he will tape an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.
Turning all this activity into polling movement will be the challenge. The size of an announcement bounce — those crucial few weeks after candidates declare their candidacy in front of large crowds, tour early states, and milk all the free media attention they can — can vary dramatically.
Those who already have high name recognition typically get more coverage, causing a higher bounce. Lesser-known contenders are lucky to pick up a handful of percentage points — a brief boost in the nation’s collective consciousness — which dissipates almost immediately, if a bounce materializes at all.
A Bloomberg Politics analysis of the kinds of national polls Fox News and CNN will use shows that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the first Republican to jump into the race this year, got an 8 percentage point bump after declaring his candidacy on March 23. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson saw a 6-point bounce in his national polling after joining the race. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum temporarily climbed 5 percentage points.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio jumped 10 points. Already, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has seen about a 7-point hike in national polls since he made his official campaign announcement announced last week — an impressive feat considering he was fighting for attention with news of a nuclear deal with Iran and oxygen-sucking antics of Donald Trump, who has been dominating political news cycles for weeks.
Before Trump announced, he was polling nationally around 2 percent. Now Trump leads the Republican field with 18 percent in the most recent Fox News poll. The only other candidate who has come close to seeing that kind of double-digit spike was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who jumped 13 points after his mid-June campaign announcement.
Any of these would be more than enough for Kasich, whose bounce could peak around the same time as the deadline for the Fox debate.
But, as it currently stands, Kasich would need about a three-point increase to beat candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, two Republicans who currently appear likely to make it into the first debate based on Fox's criteria. Others in close range are Santorum, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former New York Gov. George Pataki.
Not every candidate has been fortunate enough to see a statistically significant announcement bounce. While Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s numbers have been constantly strong (he is at no risk of losing a debate spot), he received only a 2 percentage-point increase after his April entry. Perry, Graham, Fiorina, and Pataki all saw between 1 and 2 percentage point bumps. Jindal and Christie got none at all.
"Outside of the most intensely active voters, these are fairly distant figures still," said Franklin. "For an awful lot of the electorate at this point, these are names and events that are basically encountered by accident when you're watching the news. You have to break through into consciousness."
Being left out of the debates may not be a deathblow to a fledgling campaign. Fox is televising a candidate forum earlier in the day for non-top-10 candidates. And C-SPAN is partnering with the New Hampshire Union Leader to host a separate, unofficial forum in New Hampshire on Aug. 3 that Kasich will attend.
But exposure to a broad Fox prime-time audience this early in the race, and the chance to go head-to-head with 2016 front-runners, could conceivably influence which candidates overcome political inertia in this congested field of GOP candidates and which ones drift off into oblivion.
Kasich's team said his announcement timing had nothing to do with the Fox debate. "He’s not even a candidate yet," says Schrimpf. New Day has been focused on meeting several fundraising and staffing goals in recent weeks.
The group revealed last week that it raised $11.5 million in two months. Kasich has also made headlines by hiring campaign veterans like Fred Davis as a media strategist, Linda DiVall as a pollster, and John Weaver as a chief strategist. Former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu is helping Kasich build a Granite State operation.
"We’re not putting the cart before the horse," added Schrimpf. "We’re focused on the announcement."
Making his rollout more difficult in the coming weeks, Kasich may be competing with the noise of Trump's ongoing (and escalating) brawl with the Republican Party. He will also be competing for news coverage with other low-polling Republicans trying to get noticed around the country.
Opportunity Freedom, a super-PAC supporting Perry, will spend $1 million on national ads in the coming weeks, according to spokesman Jordan Russell. Aiding the re-introduction of Perry after his troubled 2012 nomination bid, the ads will run primarily on Fox News, conservative radio, and online, Russell said.
The explicit goal: ensuring that when the first GOP debate starts, Perry is standing behind on of the podiums.
"This is about moving the needle and making sure that Governor Perry has a place on the stage to make his case to the public," said Russell, who added that the group was spending money that normally would have been saved for early primary contests.
"These are the new rules that have been set up by Fox that we have to play by. To get on that stage, that’s great opportunity, a free opportunity, to get in front of a large audience."
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