HOOKSETT, N.H. -- At his first two events of a two-day New Hampshire swing, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) drew a mix of Republican voters, independents and curious Democrats. At the home of Republican donors, and at a historic general store in this town, he talked at length about how he worked with both parties, and how reforming government programs didn't mean shredding them. He did the same earlier in Michigan, even telling a reporter that he favored a "reasonable" federal minimum wage, and that Ohio's $8.10 -- higher than the federal wage -- made sense locally.
But after a town hall here, Kasich rebuffed the idea of raising the federal minimum wage. He told reporters that any increase in the minimum wage should be done state by state, but that it should obviously increase.
"We’d all like to see it go up, but we don’t want to see the unintended consequence of people losing their jobs," Kasich said. "Back in Columbus, the head of Wendy’s said that if these wages go up too high, they’re just gonna put kiosks in and people won’t be there to take orders. It's about balance. We're doing fine in Ohio. I would prefer for the states to deal with it, at this point."
Kasich's position puts him at odds with some of his competitors in the "establishment" lane of the primary. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush has called for eliminating the federal minimum wage entirely; Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) has called the minimum wage increase a "lame idea" from Democrats who don't know how to grow the economy.
But Kasich, in Michigan and New Hampshire, has suggested that raising the wage made sense as long as it didn't kill jobs -- that it could be raised to a level that would have to be studied and negotiated closely.
"Make sure that it make sense between management and labor," he said, "so we don’t have the unintended consequences of throwing the least-skilled people out of work, and we create morale problems with people who are more skilled who feel they’re not appreciated it."
He didn't mention Gravity Payments, the company whose CEO raised the company's minimum yearly wage to $70,000, and cut his own pay to that level, only to anger employees who felt that the wrong people were jumping up the ladder. But that company's story has become a touchstone for people who think that raising wages for jobs in low-skilled industries would cause economic havoc and resentment.