John Weaver is apparently Gov. John Kasich’s top campaign strategist.  Part of his job is messaging, and so far, looking in from the outside, he’s falling down on the job.

Wherever he goes, Kasich will be challenged by conservatives opposed to the expansion of Medicaid.  It happened in Helena, Montana, when he was urging adoption of an Article V BBA Resolution.  And, according to news accounts, it’s happening in fund raising meetings.  He gets defensive, combative and self-righteous when the subject comes up.  If that’s his attitude in the debates, he’s toast.

He has an answer, and a good one.  If he’s renowned for anything, it’s as a budget hawk.  He fought like hell to balance the budget when he was in Congress.  He balanced Ohio’s budget.  And, as President, he’s the one who would actually get it done.  Been there, done that  — will do it again.  When he looked at the impact of Medicaid expansion on the State of Ohio’s budget, he decided the state could afford it.  Short term and long term, Medicaid will not bust Ohio’s budget.  There are hundreds of thousands of low income Ohio residents who will benefit from this program.  As Governor, he has a responsibility to them.  They are his constituents, and he wants them to have the best medical care possible.  So he took the money,   knowing full well the State of Ohio will soon be picking up the tab  — but Ohio can afford it.  He would know, of all people.  Would he impose this decision on other states?  Hell no.  If South Carolina doesn’t want to expand Medicaid that’s their business.  He’s the Governor of Ohio, not South Carolina.  His Ohio values led him to this decision.  And as President he would not force Medicaid expansion on any state.  He will not impose Ohio values on the rest of the country.  That call is not up to the feds.  Each state gets to decide.

That’s the story he needs to tell.  He sure as hell doesn’t need to lecture people about their Christian duty, or brag about his cred at the pearly gates.  It’s fine, it’s admirable, to help those in the shadows.  That job is for the states, and local communities, and churches, and all the other charitable institutions in this country.

It is not the job of the federal government.  He knows that.  The feds have a limited role in our system of government.

He could even go off on what those Ohio values are.  Tell the story of Ohio, and why it has always, since it gained statehood over 200 years ago, been the bellwether of the country, striking the balance between north and south.  When it was settled people came from Yankeeland and Virginia, and everything in between.  The people of Ohio mind their own business, but they also feel an obligation to one another.

Any question about Medicaid in Ohio can easily be turned into a discussion of fiscal discipline.  Who has demonstrated it over the course of a thirty year career in politics, at the state and federal level, and is determined to impose that discipline from the White House?  Take it to the bank.  John Kasich will balance the budget.   Period.  But in doing so he will be mindful of all the people on Social Security and Medicare who rely so heavily on those programs.

Weaver needs to sit down with Kasich and work this message out.  And Kasich then needs to show the discipline to repeat it, over and over, any time the subject comes up.  Jeb famously flubbed a question on Iraq that he knew was coming, and he paid a price.  If Kasich gets all riled up every time someone brings up Medicare, Weaver will be out of a job soon enough.

The greatest line in the history of Presidential debates was the Gipper’s, “There you go again.”  He said it with a smile, as though he was a little disappointed with Carter.  Nobody can be Ronald Reagan.

But we can try.

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