Ohio Gov. John Kasich launches campaign; Donald Trump keeps the heat on GOP rivals


Welcome to Trail Guide, your daily tour through the twists and turns of the 2016 presidential campaign. It’s Tuesday, July 21, and here’s what we’re watching:

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich jumped into the GOP primary promising good policy over partisan purity
  • The Times’ Mark Z. Barabak dives into the question 'Is Kasich too abrasive to win?’
  • Donald Trump kicked off his South Carolina campaign by going after the state's Sen. Lindsey Graham
  • Jeb Bush is campaigning in Spartanburg, S.C. 

If recent history is any guide, Trump, too, shall pass

It's been a oddball week on the campaign trail. A reality TV star is the newly crowned front-runner for the Republican nomination for president. That development comes despite -- or perhaps because of -- his willingness to engage in middle-school-style insult wars with other cast members, er, members of his party.

This week alone Donald Trump has called John McCain a “dummy,” Lindsey Graham an “idiot” and made fun of Rick Perry's glasses. To be fair, Graham started it by calling Trump a “jackass.” (Or was it McCain who started it by calling Trump supporters “crazies?” Or Perry who asked for it by comparing Trump to a “cancer?”) For a refresher, see Time's Donald Trump Insult Generator.

The name-calling is especially notable for a primary field that once caused many analysts to sigh with relief. This crowd would look downright statemanslike compared to the motley crew that assembled to run four years ago, the thinking went. Back then, candidates surged and candidates sank in what became an almost predictable rhythm. Primary voters seemed to date and dump the contenders like teenagers.

But the last man standing surprised no one -- and never made fun of anyone's mother. It's a good day to look at some headlines from four years ago to help us all remember that, if recent history is a guide, this, too, shall pass:

> June 21, 2011: Bachmann surges to primary lead

> Aug. 24, 2011: Perry zooms to front of the pack for 2012 GOP nomination

> Oct. 13, 2011: Herman Cain now leads the GOP pack: Pizza CEO's ascent and Perry's decline -- probably not the last shakeup

> Sept. 3, 2011: Sarah Palin thrills Iowa crowd, stays mum on presidential plans

> Nov.11, 2011: The Gingrich surge has come

> Dec. 30, 2011: Iowa poll: Santorum surges as Gingrich fades, Romney leads

In the broad spectrum of things he's seen as a nicer guy than Chris Christie, a tougher guy than Jeb Bush, a smarter guy than Scott Walker and a saner guy than Ted Cruz.
Republican strategist John Feehery on Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who formally launched his presidential bid Tuesday. Feehery, who is neutral in the GOP primary, worked as an aide to the GOP House leadership during Kasich's years on Capitol Hill.

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Trump's phone prank fallout

Mike Huckabee lone Republican set to meet with AFL-CIO leaders

GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee delivers remarks during Florida Gov. Rick Scott's Economic Growth Summit in Buena Vista, Fla., on Tuesday.

GOP presidential contender Mike Huckabee delivers remarks during Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s Economic Growth Summit in Buena Vista, Fla., on Tuesday.

(Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel )

When the executive council of the AFL-CIO meets in suburban Washington later this month to consider who to endorse in the 2016 presidential race, it will be mostly the expected candidates appearing before them to make their pitch.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will be there. So will Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont whose appeal among the rank and file union membership is giving the Clinton campaign no small headache. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has positioned himself squarely to the left of Clinton, will also be at the meeting.

All the Republicans were invited too. So far, none of them has expressed interest in showing up -- except one. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a dark horse contender in this year's very crowded GOP field, will be there, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO confirmed. All the GOP contenders were sent the questionnaire required to get an invitation to speak. Huckabee was the only one who filled it out.

The former Fox News commentator hardly fits the profile of a Big Labor candidate. He is deeply conservative. But Huckabee also positions himself as a populist and his crusading against the massive Pacific trade deal that unions detest -- and most every other Republican supports -- at least gives him something to talk about before a group not expected to warmly welcome his agenda.

UPDATE 2:36 p.m.: This post was updated to note that the AFL-CIO asked all GOP candidates to participate.

Behind their parents' war of words, two famous daughters are friends

Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, who both attended the Glamour Women Of The Year awards in November, have long been friends, even as their parents go after each other as presidential-campaign rivals.

Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, who both attended the Glamour Women Of The Year awards in November, have long been friends, even as their parents go after each other as presidential-campaign rivals.

(Laura Cavanaugh / FilmMagic)

Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump are buddies, despite their parents' political split, The Times' Evan Halper writes:

"The longtime friendship between Chelsea Clinton and Ivanka Trump is one of those phenomena of life among the fabulously wealthy and ridiculously famous that can be tough to fathom for the rest of us. These families that are publicly positioned as rivals have a history together, not all of it acrimonious. The Donald's unapologetic opportunism and the knack of the Clintons for charming even ideological opposites who happen to have deep pockets seem to have brought them close."

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Donald Trump says he's got Lindsey Graham's number

I see your senator, what a stiff, what a stiff. Lindsey Graham. By the way ... he's registered zero in the polls. Zero. He's on TV all the time.
Donald Trump in Bluffton, S.C., Tuesday speaking about Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

Kasich gets in, elevates policy over purity

Mixing the secular and spiritual, Ohio Gov. John Kasich Tuesday became the 16th major Republican candidate to formally join the race for president.

In a lengthy announcement speech in Columbus, at his Ohio State alma mater, Kasich cited his experience as a former member of Congress and a chief executive to suggest that he brings a unique skill set to the crowded contest.

“I know what needs to be done,” he said. “I've been there at all levels, OK?”

Invoking religious faith, he also spoke at length about the need for a society that is more caring and compassionate, citing programs in Ohio to help drug addicts, the mentally ill and the economically hard-pressed. His expansion of healthcare access under the federal Affordable Care Act is a sore point among conservatives, who attacked Kasich ahead of his announcement.

Shunning high-flown rhetoric for a more conversational, plain-spoken style, Kasich took issue with the purists and hard-liners in both political parties.

“Policy is more important than politics, ideology or any of the other nonsense we see,” said Kasich, who is known for his blunt, sometimes abrasive style. Strategists hope to turn that quality into an asset, calling his candor a sign of authenticity.

But his relatively late start, meager fundraising and hard-to-type political persona make Kasich a clear underdog in the Republican race. Unless he gets a quick bump in opinion polls, he may not qualify for the first GOP presidential debate, set for Aug. 6 in Cleveland, even if it is taking place in his home state.

Analyzing John Kasich's announcement speech

A first sign of a Trump slump?

Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

(Kurtis Lee)

The ABC News/Washington Post poll garnered some impressive headlines for Donald Trump, with words like "surge" and "front-runner." But as the Times' Kurtis Lee noted in his write up Monday, the poll isn't all good news for the embattled Republican candidate.

"The survey's final night of polling took place after Trump faced strong criticism for saying Sen. John McCain was not a war hero," Lee wrote. "In that last bit of the survey, Trump's standing dropped sharply, although the margin of error on a single night's sample makes quantifying his decline imprecise."

It seems possible the poll captured the first night of voter backlash against Trump. We'll have to wait for the next round of surveys to know for sure.

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Scott Walker 'super PAC' posts $20-million haul

The "super PAC" supporting Gov. Scott Walker's presidential bid announced it raised $20 million in its first quarter from just under 300 donors.

The tally from the Unintimidated PAC comes a week after Walker officially entered the presidential race, and three months after the PAC was created. The number is enough to show Walker in serious contention for the nomination. But it also shows he has a lot of ground to make up now that he is an official candidate.

Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, leads all Republican candidates with $103 million from outside groups, followed by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, with $38 million from outside groups, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, with just under $32 million. Each of those candidates also has collected more than $10 million through their campaigns.

Walker is among the early favorites in the race because of his ability to attract multiple factions in the party — establishment Republicans, social conservatives, and tea party, small-government advocates. But he is still trying to introduce himself to voters.

“The $20-million haul is even more impressive considering that the dollars were raised before Scott Walker officially entered the race for president,” the PAC said in a news release Tuesday morning.

The group's director, Keith Gilkes, credited "Walker's record of fighting for and winning conservative reforms” that is “translating into tremendous grass-roots and financial support from across the country."

Though such PACs traditionally depend on large-scale donors, Gilkes said the tally reflects “Walker's story of being unintimidated by special interests.”

Trump apologizes to McCain -- almost

Donald Trump came very close to apologizing to Sen. John McCain in an interview on "The O'Reilly Factor" Monday evening. But then he didn't.

"I have respect for Sen. McCain. I used to like him a lot," Trump said, noting he'd once raised money for the former GOP presidential nominee. "Certainly, if there was a misunderstanding, I would totally take that back."

Trump, who the GOP front-runner in the race in some polls, has been pounding on McCain for days -- first mocking the senator's history as a prison of war by saying "I like people who weren't captured" and then attacking him for his record on veterans issues. Trump says McCain started the feud by saying the real estate mogul's stand on immigration had stirred up "the crazies."

Despite the comment, Trump wasn't exactly contrite. He spent much of the interview attacking McCain's record on veterans services. And he maintained there should be no misunderstanding.

"I said it correctly," he said.

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The Kentucky chain saw massacre

Sen. Rand Paul used a chain saw to cut through the U.S. tax code -- literally, his campaign said. They sent around the photo above as a teaser. But a video of the stunt is set to air this morning on Fox News.

While you were sleeping, Trump was tweeting

Donald Trump's after-hours tweeting went a bit awry early Tuesday. Trump retweeted a supposed fan's encouraging comment, apparently believing it was from a Vietnam veteran's son. The poster included a photo of his "dad." But several observers quickly noted the man in the photo was Jeffrey MacDonald, a Green Beret convicted in 1979 of killing his pregnant wife and daughters.

Trump's account deleted the tweet Tuesday morning.

Trump, or his Twitter minions, have had to retroactively edit his especially combative account before. In recent weeks he's deleted tweets about Jeb Bush's wife and one that used a stock photo of soldiers in Nazi uniforms. Here's a look at Trump was tweeting, while you weren't looking:

UPDATE: 9:07 a.m. This post has been updated to note deleted tweet, background and add byline.

Kasich and the 'coffee shop crank' problem

The Times' Mark Z. Barabak takes a look at the conundrum that is Ohio Gov. John Kasich. A near perfect national candidate on paper, Kasich's gruff, unpredictable personality has some Republicans wondering if he has the discipline and disposition to make it through a presidential campaign. From Barabak's piece:

"Part of his appeal as a presidential candidate, at least on paper, is his political strength in a state that Republicans almost certainly need to win the White House. ...Ohioans have grown accustomed to Kasich's sometimes raw, blunt-spoken style ¿ sort of like the crank at the local coffee shop, said John Green, who teaches political science at the University of Akron. 'He's got a lot of strong opinions,' Green said, 'But he's not seen as mean-spirited.'"

Others tackled the same question ahead of Kasich's announcement today. Don't miss:

> YahooNews' Matt Bai wonders if Kasich keeps it just a little too real.

>Politico's Alex Isenstadt looks at the governor's attempt to control his temper.

> The Columbus Dispatch goes deep into Kasich's rants and his record in Ohio and asks "Can Kasich pull it off?"

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