Is he a conservative or is he a moderate? Gov. John Kasich can't seem to make up his mind, although he clearly wants primary voters to think he's the former.

The central strategy behind Kasich's presidential campaign, launched Tuesday, seems to be to defend all the moderate or liberal things he's done as governor of Ohio and then to promise to approach those same issues as a staunch conservative if elected president. Here are three issues where the Ohio Republican is trying to have it both ways:

Taxes and Spending

General fund spending has risen by 18 percent since Kasich's first full fiscal year as governor, according to Nicole Kaeding of the libertarian Cato Institute. Kaeding points out that nationwide, state general fund spending rose by only 12 percent during the same timeframe.

It's worth noting that Kasich pledged not to raise taxes and has kept that promise, according to Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. "Kasich signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and he kept it," Norquist told the Washington Examiner. "All his tax proposals were net tax cuts."

That doesn't mean his tax record is perfectly conservative, though. Kasich tried to raise taxes on businesses, shale gas and cigarettes. Ideally, those taxes would not have been singled out for increases, and a revenue-neutral sales tax hike would have replaced them.

As he runs for president, Kasich says he's working with Steve Forbes on proposing a flat income tax. "It's simpler, it's flatter — I look at distribution tables — and if you don't like it, you can keep the current system, which is really appealing to me," Kasich said in May.

If Kasich prefers the flat income tax, how come he didn't give one to the people of Ohio? The state's income tax has nine tax brackets.


As governor, Kasich expanded Medicaid through Obamacare in Ohio. The expansion has been more than $1 billion over budget in the year-and-a-half since it took effect.

Now that he's running for president, Kasich is emphasizing how much he wants to repeal Obamacare. "I don't support Obamacare," Kasich has said. "I want to repeal it." Kasich defends his support for Medicaid expansion and simultaneous opposition to Obamacare by insisting that he just wanted to "bring Ohio money back home."

My Examiner colleague Philip Klein explains why that's a lousy defense. "Repealing Obamacare would repeal the Medicaid expansion," Klein has written. "As it is, Medicaid is crippling state budgets and is among the largest state expenditures."


Kasich supports Common Core, which are education standards in English and math, even though it is widely opposed by conservatives. Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., and Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., are also running for president and also once supported Common Core but now oppose it.

Worse yet, Kasich has been lying to audiences about where Common Core came from. "Governors themselves wrote the standards," Kasich said in May.

"Literally, it's not at all true," Neal McCluskey, director of the libertarian Cato Institute's Center for Educational Freedom, told the Examiner in response back in May. While some governors asked the National Governors Association and Council of Chief State School Officers to draft potential standards, that's where the involvement of governors stopped. There's no evidence governors actually sat down and helped draft the standards.

Still, Kasich is a supporter of school choice, which conservatives generally support. "I'm for choice in education because I think the more competition [there] is among adults to fight for the right to educate our kids, the better our kids do," Kasich said in February 2015, according to Maureen Sullivan, a Forbes contributor.

Repealing Obamacare, a flat income tax and school choice are all conservative policy reforms. But it would be easier for conservatives to trust Kasich on these issues if his record as governor weren't so moderate.