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Kasich vs. Trump Starts To Take Shape In Ads And In Ohio Voters' Minds

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WOSU composite
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After John Kasich surged to second place in the New Hampshire presidential primary,frontrunner Donald Trump declared he may have to get tougher on the Ohio governor in the next phase of the campaign – in part because of Kasich’s attacks on him. 

Donald Trump got about 35 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, compared to John Kasich’s 16. But Kasich’s election-night speech sounded jubilant -- and victorious.

“Maybe, just maybe at a time when clearly change in the air, maybe, just maybe we are turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight, the light overcame the dark of negative campaigning. And you made it happen.”

The crowd cheered, clapped and chanted “Kasich.”

Kasich himself has run a positive campaign. But the SuperPac that supports him, New Day for America, has launched some of the sharpest attacks on Trump. One, for example, raises the specter of Nazi Germany punctuated by Trump’s statements on Muslims, minorities, immigrants and others.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ-pvH6_EMM

“...And   if he keeps going and he actually becomes president, he might just get around to you --  and you better hope there’s someone left to help you...” 

Let the PACS be the bad guys

Benjamin Bates teaches campaign advertising and messaging at Ohio University. He says the division of political ads is not extraordinary. That’s because negative ads – while effective at suppressing the ‘other guy’s’ turnout – carry a certain “ick” factor and risk of backlash.

“If you say, ‘I’m John Kasich and I approve this message,’ if it’s a negative message, the voters also dislike John Kasich.”

But when an independent group lobs the attack, those negatives latch onto the person being attacked “and towards the faceless Political Action Committee.”

So Bates expects the positive ads from Kasich and attack ads from his PAC will continue as long as Kasich’s campaign does – and, Kasich hopes right through theOhio primary on March 15 and beyond.

Those ads will be aimed at trying settle things for people like Rick Hull, one of a group of regulars who gather every Wednesday at the B&K restaurant in Stark County. On Kasich, he says, “I respect the fact that he is trying to stay out of the mud-slinging. He’s done well here in Ohio. My opinion at this point right now is --  if he’s still around when we get the opportunity to vote here in Ohio -- I’ll take a good strong look at him.”

Hull says he’s pro-business, but not exactly pro-Trump. “I’m not sure that he’s a good businessman. I’m don’t know how to evaluate that because I’ve seen him lose as much money as he makes.”

The Trump-Hillary table?

A few tables away, the generally apolitical Hank Sims and his wife Pamela have mixed feelings about Trump – and none at all about Kasich.

“To me, Trump is – he’s just waking everybody up. And he’s sparking a lot of controversy. I don’t know necessarily if I want him as president. But then, it might be a good thing because maybe he’ll do something he says that he’ll do.”

Pamela had snorted when Trump’s name came up.

“To me, he’s just goofy.”

She says she’s leaning toward Hillary Clinton.

Non-politicians

Richard Smith is 77 and retired last year. He’s a hesitantly-leaning-toward-Trump guy.

“Kasich just sounds like a good guy. But he sounds like a politician. That’s what I’ve got against Kasich. Trump scares me but yet he’s saying what I want to hear.”

Personally, he says, he’d like to have seen Carly Fiorina run a stronger campaign. But she and Chris Christie have now dropped out of the race.

And that, says his tablemate, Rick Hull, may be a good thing for Ohio voters who want to be good voters.   

“There’s way too many choices and you can’t get enough information. That’s the hardest part is the average person doesn’t get enough information about what’s going on and what the candidates are saying to really make an informed choice.”

Ohio voters can expect they’ll have a lot more opportunity to get informed over the next month. In all, some $4.5 billion is expected to be spent on television advertising this presidential campaign year. And with early voting starting next week, a good share of that will pay for positive -- and negative --   ads here in Ohio.