A Lesson in Political Messaging from the Kasich Presidential Campaign

Yesterday I received the following e-mail from the Governor Kasich’s presidential campaign:

“Martin, Governor Kasich has a strong pro-life record and now anti-life groups are attacking him. Can you chip in and help John fight back?

Kasich on Abortion

“No Governor in Ohio history has signed more pro-life legislation than Governor Kasich. The governor signed a ban on late-term abortions; began defunding Planned Parenthood; banned funding for abortions in taxpayer-funded public employee health plans; and banned elective abortions in public, taxpayer-funded hospitals.

“As a result, abortions are at historic lows in Ohio and the number of clinics has been cut almost in half.

“Now anti-life groups are attacking Governor Kasich for what he believes. Can you help John fight back?

“Mary Taylor
Lt. Governor of Ohio”


It is true that the Ohio Democratic party has distributed materials that have been critical of Governor Kasich for his positions on a number of issues, including women’s rights, and on the state’s performance in a number of areas, including the economy and education.

But I am not aware of any recent, very pointed attacks on his very anti-choice record.

At least not any such attacks on his record from Democrats.


But consider the following opening paragraphs from an article by Sarah Ferris published on August 19 by The Hill:

“A leading anti-abortion group is hitting Gov. John Kasich (Ohio) after the presidential contender called for his Republican counterparts to focus on other issues on the campaign trail.

“The Susan B. Anthony List released a statement Wednesday urging Kasich to watch the series of undercover videos targeting Planned Parenthood for its fetal tissue donation program.

“The latest video, which was released Wednesday, claimed that some tissue had been obtained from fetuses with beating hearts.

“’We are encouraging all presidential candidates to remain firm on this issue,’ spokeswoman Mallory Quigley wrote in a statement, specifically calling out Kasich.

“’This week Gov. Kasich said Republicans focus “too much” on the issue of abortion. We ask him to watch the series of Center for Medical Progress videos and reconsider that position.’

“Kasich’s remarks came Sunday in an interview with CNN’s State of the Union.

“’I think (abortion) is an important issue, but I think there’s many other issues that are really critical. Early childhood. Infant mortality. The environment. Education,’ Kasich said. ‘I think we focus too much on just one issue, and now that the issue of gay marriage is kind of off the table, we’re kind of down to one social issue.’

“Kasich is already under fire from anti-abortion groups in his state for declining to defund Ohio’s branch of Planned Parenthood, though he has denounced the group’s practices as ‘abhorrent.’”

Ferris’ complete article is available at: http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/251488-kasich-under-fire-from-anti-abortion-group?ct=t(CNNPolitics_com_Nightcap_July_22_20157_22_2015)


And consider, too, the following item disseminated yesterday, before Mary Taylor’s message was distributed by the Kasich campaign, by Erick Erickson at RedStates:

“John Kasich’s Jesus

“John Kasich, Ohio’s Governor, is running for President on the platform of telling Republicans painful truths in order to get free media exposure as a ‘truth teller.’

“Kasich will tell anyone willing to listen that Jesus demanded he expand Obamacare in Ohio. He said that one day we’d stand before our Creator who would demand, “What did you do for the least of them?” Kasich would be able to proudly respond that he expanded Obamacare thereby saddling future generations with untold debt and inferior healthcare.

“Yesterday, Kasich told people that they need to get over Roe v. Wade because it is the law of the land. The statement came the day after a new Planned Parenthood video showed a child having his head cut open, as his heart was beating, so his brain could be extracted and sold.

“What kind of Jesus demands John Kasich expand government, but accept Roe v. Wade? I’ll tell you one thing, it is not the Jesus who spoke the world into being. I don’t know who John Kasich’s Jesus is, but I suggest he leave him at home next time.”

The rest of the article is available at: http://www.redstate.com/2015/08/21/john-kasichs-jesus/?utm_source=rsmorningbriefing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=nl


So, if one takes all of these items together and also takes into account that the message from the campaign is aimed at Governor Kasich’s supporters and, somewhat more broadly, at Republican primary voters, it seems fairly clear that the appeal by Mary Taylor that has been distributed by Governor Kasich’s campaign is in response to attacks on his pro-life positions not by Democrats but by fellow Republicans.

Undoubtedly, in such a context, some of Governor Kasich’s most persistent and harshest critics will regard the campaign message as just a further illustration of the governor’s deep-seated political cynicism.

But, if pressed, even his most persistent and harshest critics will have to admit that this message represents some pretty damned slick political messaging.

Consider the following:

The message very concisely, concretely, and specifically established Governor Kasich’s Pro-Life credentials.

But it does so while not acknowledging that the attacks have come from others on the Right. So it does not point anyone to the sources of those criticisms or in any way even implicitly reinforce them.

Instead, it attributes the criticisms to Governor Kasich’s pro-choice opponents, suggesting that he has paid a political price for defending his principles and yet has persisted in defending those principles. Indeed, rather than being open to criticism for his defense of those principles, he should be regarded as a champion of those principles.

Therefore, any voter who is aware of the criticisms from the Right or who comes across them after reading the campaign messaging will more likely discount them as politically motivated, rather than substantive.

Indeed, given the conciseness, concreteness, and specificity of the reiteration of the governor’s record, some of those voters may even begin to wonder whether those who are making the attacks have compromised their own principles simply for some sort of political gain.

So, regardless of what one thinks of the message itself, the simplicity and yet the sophistication of this sort of political messaging is undeniable.

And it may help to explain to those outside of Ohio why no one in Ohio, whether a political supporter or a political opponent, underestimates Governor Kasich’s political awareness. Whatever limitations he may have as a speaker or as a campaigner, he has managed to offset them with a great deal of political experience and political savvy.



2 thoughts on “A Lesson in Political Messaging from the Kasich Presidential Campaign

  1. Pingback: A Lesson in Political Messaging from the Kasich Presidential Campaign | Southeast Texas: The Blog

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