That was a poor choice.
Kasich rambled through a 45-minute speech littered with stories about people he had met on the street during his life. It never seemed to coalesce into any sort of coherent takeaway or message. That's problematic for any candidate running for president but especially one who is the 16th person to enter the Republican race and who, as of today, wouldn't qualify for the first Republican debate in his home state next month.
For Kasich, this announcement speech was the best chance to give people who either didn't know his name (or how to pronounce it) or much about him a sense of why he was running and why they should consider being for him. But, his speech was so all over the place that it's hard to imagine undecided Republican voters will even know where to look or listen to find the central message of his candidacy. I watched the speech from beginning to end and I couldn't tell you what that message is.
Look. I get the appeal of speaking extemporaneously. Especially if you are a Republican running for president after eight years of President Obama -- a politician many in the GOP believe got elected largely on his ability to read a speech well on a teleprompter. And double especially (not a thing) if you are trying to show how different you are than the last Republican presidential nominee who could give a speech and look good doing it but couldn't relate to the average voter if his life depended on it.
But, there are limits to off-the-cuff-ness in the context of a presidential campaign. You can't -- as it appears Kasich did -- just get up and talk. It sounds great in the conference room: "Yeah, he's just got to be him. He doesn't need a bunch of talking points! Authenticity!"
It looks much less good in the actual delivery -- as Kasich proved today (and Donald Trump proves every day). There's a reason speechwriters exist. There's a reason teleprompters were invented.
The unfortunate thing in all of this is that Kasich is an interesting messenger with a potentially interesting message. He has a deep and impressive résumé both inside and outside of Washington. His life story -- he (re)found religion after his parents were killed by a drunk driver -- and leaned on his religion when he decided to accept Medicaid expansion as a part of Obamacare while governor. His message of compassionate conservatism -- with apologies to George W. Bush -- could find fertile soil among many within the GOP who might not be satisfied with the field just yet.
But, today's speech was a swing and a miss to convince people "why Kasich." He'll get other chances but maybe none so big.