There are no less than 13 candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who would like to see a big hole poked in the balloon of front-runner Donald Trump and see him shrivel up and go away.
But there seems to be only one of them doing anything about it – the only one willing to bell the cat.
And that one is Ohio’s governor, John Kasich.
For weeks now, Kasich and his Super PAC, New Day for America, have been churning out broadcast and web ads ripping into the real estate mogul/reality TV star/presidential candidate as an insensitive, bigoted person unfit to serve as the nation’s chief executive.
We have no doubt that this is what Kasich truly believes. The politics of personal attacks that Trump has specialized in is not the Ohio governor’s style, not at all.
This is, in part, why Kasich has decided to take on Trump, even if he has to do it alone while the others try to avoid confrontations with the front-runner.
But there is a practical political reason for Kasich to do this as well.
He has to knock Trump off his pedestal in order to have any chance of winning the GOP nomination.
Kasich early on put almost all his eggs in one basket – the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where he has spent an enormous amount of time and money in order to win the Granite State, or at least finish in a strong position.
The polls suggest it’s not going well.
The Real Clear Politics (RCP) website, which tracks all things political, has averaged out the four most recent polls of New Hampshire’s Republican voters. Kasich’s RCP average is 7.8 percent, putting him in fifth place.
The leader in the RCP average? Trump, of course, with 26 percent support – more than twice as much as the second-place finisher, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, at 12.5 percent.
This is not good for Kasich, who has said on the stump that if he doesn’t do well in New Hampshire, he might as well pack it in and go home.
“It’s simple for Kasich,’’ said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, in an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Andy Chow.
“If he can’t win New Hampshire, he’s not going to be the nominee and Trump is leading New Hampshire,’’ Kondik said. “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.”
The ads themselves are pretty tough.
One of them, which you can view here, is called “Trump’s Dangerous Rhetoric” and features retired Col. Thomas Moe of Lancaster, Ohio, who survived torture while a prisoner of the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam war, warning that if Trump is willing to go after the rights and freedoms of some Americans, he could some day target yours as well. Moe is heading up Kasich's military veterans campaign committee.
Another one by the Kasich campaign is called “Is He Worthy?” You can view it here.
In “Is He Worthy,’’ the Kasich campaign uses footage in which Trump appears to be mocking the physical handicap of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who suffers from a condition that impairs the use of his arms. Trump denied he was mocking the reporter.
Then, the ad runs a series of photos of past presidents – George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan. The underlying caption reads, Is someone like Donald Trump worthy of following in their footsteps? Is he?
And there are more to come.
Last month, New Day for America launched a $2.5 million campaign on radio, TV, online and mail on advertising aimed at knocking down Trump; and the Super PAC leaders said they expect the amount of money to grow.”
Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University, said that most people already are aware of Trump’s “negatives.”
“It’s unlikely that an ad will take him down,’’ Mariani said of Trump. “It’s more likely that events will.”
If the concern over the Islamic State and national security continues to grow – and it likely will – Mariani told WVXU that GOP primary voters may start drifting toward candidates they believe are better prepared to deal with the security threats to this country.
“But right now, Trump’s appeal is strength; he’s seen as the tough guy,’’ Mariani said.
Mariani gives Kasich credit for trying to be the guy who takes Trump down.
“He’s trying,’’ Mariani said. “There are more non-Trump voters than there are Trump voters.”
He’s the David who goes after Goliath with nothing but rock and a slingshot, trying to take the giant down.
The Ohio governor has a lot riding on this. He either knocks Trump down or, on Feb. 9, when New Hampshire Republicans go to the polls, they could hand Kasich a one-way ticket back to Columbus.