When Ohio Governor John Kasich entered the presidential race last Tuesday, he brought with him an interesting dynamic. He is a Republican who sees Christianity as deeply personal, a factor that influences his decision-making. While that may be true of other candidates, Kasich does not allow the party line to affect his Christian-based views. And that’s why he’s different.
For instance, after the passage of Obamacare, while his fellow Republicans were circling the wagons, Kasich decided that he wanted to expand Medicaid in Ohio. Such a move was looked upon as a type of treason by some of his colleagues.
But it was his reason for doing so that angered fellow Republicans, many who fancy themselves faithful Christians, even more. Kasich told reporters, “Now, when you die and get to the meeting with St. Peter, he’s probably not going to ask you much about what you did about keeping government small, but he is going to ask you what you did for the poor. You better have a good answer.” You could see the steam emanating from his colleagues’ ears.
How can you argue with that reasoning? You can’t.
On immigration, where Republicans have also clashed with the president, Kasich softened his approach over the past decade moving more centrist in his views. He favors a position not far from Mr. Obama’s — one that eases penalties for undocumented children — much to the chagrin of others on his side of the aisle.
When asked about this, Kasich said, “When I look at a group of people who might be hiding, who may be afraid, who may be scared, who have children, I don’t want to be in a position of where I make it worse for them.”
If you are a Christian Evangelical, how can you argue with that? You can’t.
The examples continue. His recent move toward a more humane approach to treating drug addicts in Ohio has clear scriptural ties.
To be sure, Kasich can be a bit odd on occasion, but what he does appear to have is a genuine sincerity about his Christian faith that will likely resonate with Christians.
And Kasich has been clear that his faith is something he is always struggling with and working on. He said recently, “I’ve wrestled with it all, and the more I wrestle the stronger I get. The more I wrestle the stronger the foundation I’m trying to build my house upon.” Sounds like the faithful Christians I know.
So, John Kasich brings with him an interesting mix. He is a Republican who goes his own way — a way he sees as conforming to the Christian faith. And in an environment where Christian evangelicals have long associated themselves with the Republican party, it remains to be seen whether this new entry into the 2016 presidential contest, who clearly hits home with thoughtful Christians in his Biblically-based reasoning, will also resonate with the mass of the Republican party.
John Kasich’s success may well depend upon whether Republican voters identify themselves first as Republicans and second as Christians, or first as Christians and then as Republicans.