John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, a 2016 presidential candidate, and the human embodiment of the phrase “aw shucks,” is actively campaigning for another run.
Who could blame him? Kasich was one of the last Republican challengers to Donald Trump standing in 2016 (although he finished with fewer votes than Ted Cruz). He’s got a high approval rating, and a recent poll of New Hampshire Republicans showed Kasich was trailing Trump by just 6 points.
So this week, Kasich—who is term-limited as governor and leaves office in January—is in New Hampshire. On Wednesday afternoon there was an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash where he said it was “unlikely” that he would run as an independent presidential candidate. Also yesterday, the New York Times wrote that Kasich’s pitch was that of a “spokesman for national decency”:
On this and other issues, though, Mr. Kasich has sought to contrast himself with Mr. Trump most pointedly as a spokesman for national decency. Rarely was he more animated on Tuesday than during a discussion of the president’s Easter morning tweet declaring, “NO MORE DACA DEAL.” “On Easter,” the governor said on Tuesday, later adding, “Come on, leaders don’t do that.
Not gonna lie, bud. Don’t love the racism, especially on Easter. It’s just not great.
In an interview with BuzzFeed’s Henry Gomez posted last night, however, Kasich blatantly and unrelentingly thirsted for millennial votes in a way that would make Hillary Clintons’s digital team blush:
“It seems as though we’ve all become so cynical now,” he told BuzzFeed News in an interview this week, during another New Hampshire visit that raises speculation that the frequent Donald Trump critic could challenge the sitting president in the 2020 primaries. “Nobody does anything because it might be the right thing to do. If you help a woman get across the street, it must be you want something. That’s a dangerous place to be. The millennials, I don’t believe, are cynical. We are cynical. Grown-ups. Older people. Cynical. Bad.”
Kasich shamelessly pandering to millennials, on the other hand, certainly isn’t cynical, not one bit. Gomez continues:
Kasich’s new conversation pieces range from HQ, the mobile trivia game, to YouTube celebrity Logan Paul (who entered the wider public consciousness after he filmed a video inside a Japanese “suicide forest”). He also wants you to know he listens to Justin Bieber, dropping the pop star’s name too often (a statehouse press conference, a New York Magazine interview, a ride-along with the Weekly Standard) for it to be a coincidence.
Kasich’s pitch to young voters was so over the top that Gomez eventually asked him why they would vote for a 65-year old Republican. Kasich proceeded to give him an alarmingly dumb response:
“You know, age is actually a number, and it’s a state of mind,” Kasich said. “Because I happen to like popular music, people think, Well, that’s because of your daughters. That’s not true. The reason why I do certain things is I have a young mind, and my mind is always working and finding new things to talk about and think about and explore, and that’s how you stay young. I admire the young people because I feel they’re idealists, and I’m an idealist.”
Aside from the abject weirdness, this is a breathlessly stupid political strategy. Millennials are the most liberal age bloc in the country, and are growing increasingly amenable to socialism. As a group, they thought Hillary Clinton was too conservative for their liking; chances are, there isn’t going to a groundswell of support for an old man who believes reproductive rights to be neither sick nor tight.
If Kasich really wants to make a serious challenge to Trump, he’d do better to focus on consolidating the support of people who frown very hard when Trump tweets “ass” but voted for him over Clinton anyway because they wanted a tax cut. These are his real voters; as long as three or four different versions of the same guy don’t get in the race—sorry Jeff Flake—Kasich could have a real shot at taking Trump out in a 1-on-1 primary, particularly considering how volatile Trump’s approval ratings have been, not to mention the whole investigation thing.
But if Kasich wants to instead keep telling random reporters about how much he loves Justin Bieber and why age is just a number, then uh, I guess that’s cool too.