John Kasich is the Republican governor of Ohio, a fact that you would be forgiven for not knowing. In a recent poll from Quinnipiac University, Kasich was the least-recognized presidential candidate of the 11 mentioned. Fifty-seven percent of all voters hadn't heard enough about him to have an opinion -- including just about half of Republicans.
He's been running for president since July.
Kasich is currently in ninth place, according to Real Clear Politics polling average. That's behind the outsider front-runners Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson, as well as behind the insider strugglers Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. But Kasich has been one of the more outspoken critics of Trump's candidacy, bashing him on the debate stage and, earlier this month, creating a fake Trump-Putin 2016 campaign website.
Now Kasich is targeting extreme politics in another way: By advocating for reforms to how partisan congressional districts in his state are drawn.
Speaking with the Columbus Dispatch, Kasich called for redistricting reform (which, we'll note, has come up before this cycle). "I support redistricting reform dramatically," he said according to the paper. "We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district, you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes."
In other words, creating a House seat that's safe for Republicans means the primary becomes about who can be most appealing to primary-voting Republicans, which can benefit more extreme candidates. The same thing can happen on the Democratic side, too, but 12 of the state's 16 seats are held by the GOP.
The delegation has, in fact, grown more conservative over the last few decades, as data from VoteView.com illustrates.
(That dip a few years ago was following the Barack Obama-led 2008 wave.)
In 2014, the closest House race in the state was in the 6th congressional District. The Republican won by 19.6 percentage points, which is not close at all. On average, the victors won by 34 points -- more than a third of the vote.
Kasich's idea is to reduce the number of safe seats, thereby making more of the seats contestable in a general election -- and thereby moving the political debate back toward the center (where, not coincidentally, he feels more comfortable). If adopted nationally, where most general election contests are won by 10 points or more, the net effect might be to shift the political debate from the extremes back toward positions of more inter-party compromise.
(We're only talking about Congress here, by the way, not state. After controversy surrounded the 2010 redistricting process, an initiative was passed earlier this year to reform how districts are drawn at the state legislative level. Ohio's sitting members of Congress are, understandably, less excited about changing how their own districts are drawn.)
Kasich's position mirrors that of the two men who preceded him in his current position. At an event in 2013, both Democrat Ted Strickland and Republican Bob Taft argued that gerrymandered districts distort the state's politics.
Unfortunately for Kasich, national politics, including the politics of his party, are rewarding more extreme positions these days. It's not the only reason that Kasich is in ninth place -- that people haven't heard of him is a bigger problem -- but it certainly doesn't help.