So who would have guessed it?
Somebody among the small army of Republican presidential candidates was going to be the first to go on the air with a TV ad buy in New Hampshire, the state with the first-in-the-nation primary.
Not many people thought it would be Ohio’s own John Kasich.
But indeed it was.
Thursday, A New Day For America – a tax exempt 527 committee that has raised millions to promote Kasich’s candidacy and pay for his recent travels to the early primary and caucus states – came out with a 60-second ad called “For Us,” to air on Manchester and Boston TV stations.
It was a whopping $1.5 million ad buy.
Not bad for a candidate who isn’t going to officially announce his candidacy for another nine days and is barely registering in the polls, either nationally or in New Hampshire.
But it’s probably a very shrewd move on the part of A New Day For America.
The Ohio governor can get out in front of the competition, define himself for GOP primary voters before his opponents do it for him, and raise his poll numbers so that he can end up in the top 10 of the pack and qualify for an August 6 Republican presidential candidate debate to be broadcast by FOX News from Cleveland, the site of next year’s GOP presidential convention.
Very smart. Clearly, the people running this Kasich show didn’t just fall off the turnip truck; they know what they are doing.
And, the consensus is, it is an ad that is getting some very good reviews. You can watch it here.
It starts off with a dizzying round of grainy photographs of other candidates, Republican and Democratic, with political babble in the background. Suddenly, the merry-go-round of candidates stop and before a woman’s voice says, “Hey, what about us?
The rest is Kasich, talking about his background and experience. But not telling people to vote for him, because he can’t do that yet – he’s not an official candidate.
“My dad carried mail on his back and they called him ‘John the Mailman,’’’ Kasich says. “And they loved him because he looked out for everyone in those neighborhoods. I learned something from my father – do your best to look out for other people.”
And then he goes on to detail how he has done that as Ohio’s governor and, in the 1990s, as House Budget chairman, saying he helped pass the first balanced federal budget “since men first walked on the moon” and how it hasn’t been done since.
And, the political pros say, it was an impressive ad in that it was the first.
“I think it was positively brilliant,’’ said Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University. “Because the field is so crowded, the quicker you get out front the better. Getting out there early is a very good strategy.”
Kyle Kondik, an Ohio University graduate and managing editor of the influential Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
“The (ad’s) message is a good one for New Hampshire , which is one of the more moderate groups of Republican voters,’’ Kondik told WVXU. “In New Hampshire, they are not looking for fire and brimstone candidates.
“It’s a ‘bring us together’ type of ad, no social conservatism in it, just talk about his record and what’s he done,” said Kondik, whose book, “The Bellwether; Why Ohio Picks the President,” will be published next year. “He’s trying to talk to people like an adult.”
The appeal to the moderates of the Republican party is not going to do Kasich much good in early caucus and primaries states like Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada, Kondik told WVXU.
“Those are places where the social conservatives in the party have a lot of power; and Kasich is just not going to be their kind of candidate,’’ Kondik said.
Kondik wrote an article for Politico.com last week entitled, “How Not to Win the GOP Nomination: John Kasich is the Jon Huntsman of 2016.”
In the article, Kondik drew parallels between Kasich and Hunstmen, the former Utah governor and diplomat whose longshot bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination flamed out mainly because he was critical of the Republican Party and alienated the base of the party.
Huntsman criticized Republicans for denying climate change and for being too far to the right on other issues. Kasich has supported Common Core educational standards – which are anathema to many conservatives in the party – and brought Medicaid expansion to Ohio under Obamacare. He has also said repeatedly – and often couching it in Biblical terms – that the party has not done enough to help the poorest among us.
“It may be that what Kasich is selling isn’t what Republicans are buying at this particular point in time,’’ Kondik wrote in Politico.com.
Kondik told WVXU that Kasich might have an easier time dealing with his differences with the GOP than Huntsman.
“First of all, he never worked for the Obama administration like Huntsman did,’’ Kondik said. “There are similarities, but it’s true that Kasich has a lot more going for him than Jon Huntsman did.”
Kasich will formally announce his candidacy at a rally at the Ohio Union on the campus of Ohio State University, his alma mater on Tuesday, July 21; and immediately head out on a tour of early primary and caucus states.
What he hopes – desperately needs, in fact – is a bump in the polls to get him into FOX News debate in Cleveland. The news network is using the average of five polls – it’s not exactly clear which ones – to determine the top 10 candidates, all of whom will be invited to the debate.
At the moment, Kasich wouldn’t qualify.
Kondik said the idea of Kasich not being on the stage in Cleveland for the August 6 televised debate is “ridiculous.”
“There is really something messed up with the rules of this thing,’’ Kondik said. “Why would you not have the governor of the host state – who also happens to be a legitimate candidate for president – on that stage?
“He’s paid his dues to the party,” Kondik said. “What has a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson ever done for the Republican party? Especially Trump. It makes no sense.”
But that ad buy in New Hampshire – which is making its way all over the country through the social media – could be the thing that moves those numbers and gets him on that stage in Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.