by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Jim Geraghty of National Review Online isn’t buying the argument that Ohio Gov. John Kasich is seeing major momentum in the Republican presidential campaign.
Ohio governor John Kasich has doubled his national polling support to the mid-single digits — and some media outlets are treating him as a conquering hero just for edging into the top ten of the GOP presidential race.
At this point, Kasich would snag the tenth and final slot in Thursday’s first Republican debate in Cleveland. If the polls hold, the Ohio governor will just barely avoid the embarrassment of not qualifying for a marquee event held in his own backyard. And yet, the expectations game for the 2016 race is so topsy-turvy — and the media are so eager to talk about any candidate not named Trump or Bush, especially one with a penchant for jabbing at other Republicans — that this may be enough to generate a “Kasich on the rise” narrative. …
… [L]ook more closely at the polls, and the Kasich “rise” becomes less convincing. Just as the governor’s national electability was always seen as a strength, his viability in a Republican primary was always questionable, and the numbers continue to show why. Deep in the Hill story there’s cause for concern: For all of his post-announcement momentum, Kasich has jumped from 2 percent to 4 percent in the latest CNN poll and from 2 percent to 5 percent in the latest Quinnipiac poll. He’s doubled his support in the RCP average . . . to 3.5 percent. Kasich’s level of support in New Hampshire in the last two polls is 7 percent.
By ordinary standards, support in the mid-single digits is terrible. And it seems a bit silly to see fist-pumping and cartwheels over the two-term GOP governor of a must-win-state sitting a few points ahead of George Pataki and Lindsey Graham.
“In a crowded field, single-digit movement like that is merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the USS Republican,” says Alex Castellanos, a longtime GOP strategist who worked for President George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. “It is not overly impressive.”