Analyst: Kasich Running Most Aggressive Anti-Trump Strategy

Dec 2, 2015

What started as a Twitter battle has built up to be an all-out feud between presidential candidates Gov. John Kasich and Donald Trump. A campaign analyst looks at what this might signal for the future of Kasich’s run.

Credit Ben Postlethwait/Flickr

From his comments on Sunday morning talk shows to social media posts -- Gov. John Kasich seems to be positioning himself as the main thorn in Donald Trump’s heel.

The newest ad from the Kasich campaign slams Trump for apparently mocking a reporter with a disability. In the video Trump tenses his arms close to his body and bends his wrists down in a position that appears -- to many -- to be making fun of a New York Times reporter who has limited movement in his hands.

“Now the poor guy, you gotta see this guy. ‘Aw, I don’t know what I said, aw, I don’t remember!” Trump said during a campaign rally, used in Kasich's ad.

The campaign put out another ad with Kasich's former director of Veterans Services and prisoner of war, who criticized Trump’s policies by quoting a poem written about Adolf Hitler.

Adding to the anti-Trump push is Kasich’s super PAC, New Day for America, which has been slamming the retail mogul with mailers in New Hampshire.

Now Trump has shot back at Kasich every so often -- delivering his own jabs on Kasich's polling numbers during a campaign stop late last month in Columbus.

“So I’m 32[%], Kasich is -- oh, should I mention it? 3[%]. I heard he was dropping out. Somehow you when you’re the governor of a state -- gotta run that state," said Trump.

Kyle Kondik is an expert when it comes to analyzing campaigns. He’s managing editor of The Crystal Ball, a political breakdown from the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Kondik says Kasich, who has been investing most of his resources in New Hampshire, has targeted Trump more aggressively than any other candidate.

“You know it’s simple for Kasich. If he can’t win New Hampshire he’s not going to be the nominee and Trump is leading New Hampshire so it’s natural for someone behind the leader in a given state to try to chip away at that leader and I think that’s what we’re seeing from Kasich," Kondik said.

Diving into attack ads can be a tricky situation for any candidate in a big field of contenders. As Kondik explains, chipping away at Trump’s lead doesn’t directly translate into higher polling numbers for Kasich.

“I think that some candidates have been hesitant to attack others because they don’t know what those attacks with lead to," Kondik said. "What if Kasich does hurt Trump in some way but then Chris Christie benefits I mean how is that necessarily helpful to Kasich.”

The strategy has earned Kasich a lot of air time on news outlets, which brings more exposure. Political insiders have suggested that if he doesn’t win the nomination, Kasich could be an enticing vice presidential pick. Kasich and his team have repeatedly said he's running for president and not considering other options. But Kondik says being the governor of such an important swing state does come with its advantages.

“I think that certainly someone like Marco Rubio who might not be as experienced might look to someone like Kasich as a good -- more experienced running mate," said Kondik.

Kondik adds, however, that Kasich’s reputation as a straight shooter might hold him back anyway.

“He like Chris Christie sometimes has almost like an abrasive personality and they also can be unscripted on the trail and I think that vice presidential candidates probably work best when they’re non-controversial," said Kondik.

The most recent national poll released by Quinnipiac has Trump with a commanding 27% lead and Kasich is near the back of the pack with 2%.