President Donald Trump blamed Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the narrow win by Republican Troy Balderson in a special election.
"The very unpopular Governor of Ohio (and failed presidential candidate) @JohnKasich hurt Troy Balderson’s recent win by tamping down enthusiasm for an otherwise great candidate. Even Kasich’s Lt. Governor lost Gov. race because of his unpopularity. Credit to Troy on the BIG WIN!" Trump tweeted Aug. 13.
Kasich didn’t seem to agree. He responded on Twitter with a GIF of Vladimir Putin laughing.
We will focus on Trump’s statement that Kasich is "very unpopular," but we will also provide some context about Balderson’s close race in the special election for the Ohio 12th congressional district and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s loss in the GOP primary to Attorney General Mike DeWine for governor.
First, some background about the Aug. 7 special election to replace Republican U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned his seat representing suburban Columbus and nearby rural areas.
Balderson, a state senator, has likely won the race, leading Democrat Danny O’Connor, a county recorder, by about 1 percentage point. Elections officials will begin the official canvass to count provisional and absentee ballots on Aug. 18 and certify the results by Aug. 24. No matter who wins, they are both running again in November.
The close race drew national interest because in 2016 Trump won the district by 11 percentage points, and the district has largely been represented by Republicans for decades.
Trump’s tweet followed Kasich’s appearance on Meet the Press, during which Kasich criticized the Trump team, saying, "It wasn't a good night because this is a district that you should be winning by, you know, overwhelming numbers."
Kasich was first elected Ohio governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He is term-limited and considering a challenge against Trump in 2020.
In March 2011, Kasich’s favorability among the Ohioans was an abysmal 30 percent. But his popularity later increased.
A compilation of recent polls show that Kasich has largely positive approval ratings.
A Quinnipiac poll in June 2018 showed that 52 percent of Ohio voters approved of Kasich, while 36 percent disapproved, which translates to a plus-16 spread. But the poll showed that Kasich was doing better with Democrats than with his fellow Republicans -- Democrats approved of Kasich 57 - 33 percent. Republicans were divided, as 46 percent approve and 44 percent disapprove.
Kasich has drawn support from some Democrats because he has criticized Trump and supported Medicaid expansion.
University of Akron Professor David B. Cohen said Kasich remains quite popular in Ohio.
"It’s more than a bit ironic that President Trump is claiming that Gov. Kasich is unpopular since Trump is historically unpopular, has been throughout his entire presidency, and his disapproval numbers have been consistently higher than his approval ratings," Cohen said.
Herb Asher, political science professor emeritus at Ohio State University, said Kasich is viewed positively overall.
"But among a subset of Republicans -- the Trump loyalists -- he is not highly regarded," he said.
Cedarville University political science professor Mark Caleb Smith said that the best indicator of Kasich's weakness in current Ohio politics is how no other Republicans are grabbing his moderate mantle statewide.
"In this narrow way, Trump's electoral influence is significant in the state," he said. "Trump won Ohio handily in 2016's general election, though Kasich did defeat Trump in the Ohio Republican primary."
The White House did not respond to our emails.
We aren’t rating Trump’s comments blaming Kasich for Balderson’s narrow win and Taylor’s loss. But Ohio political experts were skeptical about Trump’s statements.
"Balderson held onto a solid nine-point margin in wealthy suburban Delaware County, Kasich's base, where turnout was high," Wasserman wrote. "But turnout was abysmally low in the district's most pro-Trump rural counties."
Experts generally told us that Kasich wasn’t to blame for Taylor’s loss in the primary for governor.
Taylor, who ran on a Trumpian agenda, was viewed as the underdog in the GOP primary against the better-funded and more experienced DeWine. But Taylor distanced herself from Kasich, and he didn’t campaign for her.
Trump said in a tweet that Kasich is "very unpopular."
Polls have consistently shown that Kasich has had a positive approval rating for years. His current approval rating in Ohio is 52 percent approval, with 36 percent disapproval.
We rate this claim False.