There are certain things every GOP candidate needs to do in order to stay relevant and newsworthy in the blood sport that is the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Along with mentioning Ronald Reagan and Benghazi at least once per speech and promising to abolish Obamacare on “Day One,” GOP hopefuls need to fight hard for every second of airtime not devoted to the traveling circus of the Donald Trump campaign.
No candidate has had to make his time count more than Ohio Governor John Kasich, whose laid back style has been greatly overshadowed by the boisterous personas of Trump and fellow bomb throwers Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Wednesday night’s debate was the perfect example of the uphill battle faced by candidates not willing to interrupt others, hurl insults and berate the moderators for unfair treatment. As modern debate formats seem to encourage, every candidate that mentions another candidate has to be immediately countered with a response from the bereaved party–leading to a non-stop back and forth between warring parties that eliminates all other voices from the conversation.
“It can be really frustrating and infuriating,” said Kasich campaign advisor Terry Garvin. “There are set rules and time limits that are agreed to by all of the candidates well in advance of each debate, but as soon as the lights go on all bets are off and anything goes.”
In order to counter the free-for-all mentality, Kasich has tried to make the most of his time–avoiding the insult trap and crafting cohesive and thoughtful answers wherever possible.
“Picking a president is serious business, and Governor Kasich understands that fact,” said Garvin. “Giving quick sound-bite ready answers may work well for the short-term, but it doesn’t solve anybody’s problems and it doesn’t hold up over the long haul–and we are looking at the big picture. Only a candidate with answers will beat Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in November.”
When analyzing the data from Thursday’s debate, it appears that Kasich’s strategy of staying on message and not engaging in the back and forth may have paid off–at least in terms of air time. Although Trump, Rubio and Cruz dominated the overnight insult clip news cycle, Kasich actually logged the evening’s second-most mic time–slightly besting Cruz.
“The adult used his time to address the issues while the children yelled naughty words at each other,” said Garvin. “The cream rises to the top, and that’s what will continue as this race moves along. In the end the people will do the right thing and go with the grown-up. This race is far from over.”
How long the Governor stays in that race may well be determined in four days when 12 states cast their votes on Super Tuesday.