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Kasich Dances Around "Trump Factor"

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WOSU composite
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Kasich has yet to disparage Trump. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges says Kasich is handling this the right way.

The candidate who is leading the pack of 17 Republicans vying for the party’s nomination to run for President, real estate mogul Donald Trump, is posing some difficulties for the party itself. While many candidates are speaking out against Trump, Gov. John Kasich isn’t among them.

Anyone who watched the Republican debate last week knows there’s no love lost between FOX News anchor Megyn Kelly and presidential candidate Donald Trump.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Y9_LJj7A68&spfreload=10

During the debate itself, other candidates came out swinging against Trump. But not Gov. John Kasich. At the end of the debate, he made it a point to go over to Trump and shake his hand….just like he did with the other candidates onstage.

Kasich has yet to disparage Trump or even condemn him. Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges says Kasich is handling this the right way.

“No reason to do that. John Kasich should press his message. He should talk about what he’s done. He should talk about the fact that he balanced the federal budget. He should talk about how he’s the only one on the stage who has done that at the federal and state level,” Borges said after the debate.

But this weekend, Trump made headlines again when he made some highly controversial, crass and derogatory comments about Kelly. Other Republican candidates pounced on Trump.

GOP candidate Carly Fiorina tweeted, “Mr. Trump. There. Is. No. Excuse. I stand with Megyn Kelly.”

George Pataki tweeted: “The outrage at Trump’s divisive language is long overdue.”

And Mike Huckabee – who was in the top-ten candidates’ debate with Trump, tweeted: “I hope he apologizes because I think that he should.”

Kasich tweeted out a statement that reads in part: “You don’t tear people down just because they disagree with you – and also said he was grateful for the contributions of women in his life and campaign. But he didn’t mention Trump or address the controversy head on.

Then on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, when Kasich was asked about Trump, Kasich said “It just doesn’t seem to bother me.”

Kasich went on to talk about how much he values women’s contributions to his life but he didn’t address Trump’s comments directly.  The head of the Bliss Institute at the University of Akron, John Green, says Kasich’s strategy could work well.

But Green also says it could hurt a candidate who doesn’t speak out.

“The danger of dismissing the comment is that, at some point, the voters might feel that at least, implicitly, the individual is endorsing those controversial comments,” Green says.

Trump has been leading consistently in the polls in recent months. And while it’s clear the Republican establishment doesn’t appreciate that fact, the party hasn’t done anything to try to kick Trump out of the contest.

One reason might be because Trump is threatening to run as an independent. And Green says the Republicans have a right to be concerned about that.

“If these controversies continue, it may very well be that he wouldn’t be a particularly effective candidate. The same problems that might lead him to not win the Republican nomination might lead him to not be admired by very many voters.

“But were he to continue very strongly to have support and continue to gain support and then become an independent candidate, you know there is the possibility that we could have a rerun of 1992 when Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate and many people believe, hurt the Republicans more than the Democrats,” Green explains.

Trump is a factor right now at least. Many conservatives who back Trump say they like the fact that he’s not politically correct and they think Trump’s stand on immigration and the economy is what the country needs. And at least for right now, the Republican establishment is taking a cue from Kasich and is letting the Trump campaign ride it out.