the Beacon Journal editorial board

John Kasich received unflattering notices for his performance in the most recent Republican presidential debate. The governor has watched Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio gain momentum in New Hampshire, the first primary state, where he must do well to sustain his candidacy. And yet, no matter how things turn out, he is doing his party favor now by taking on Donald Trump, the unexpected frontrunner of the past four months, who has trafficked in ugly, false and dangerous talk.

New Day for America, the Kasich Super PAC, has launched a $2.5 million ad campaign in New Hampshire. The spot reminds viewers about some of the more outrageous Trump utterances, for instance, his claim that John McCain really isn’t a war hero and his “great relationship with the blacks.” The questions “Presidential? … Commander in Chief? … Leader of the Free World?” frame the scenes of the self-smitten, blustery Trump.

On Tuesday, the Kasich campaign unveiled a more stinging punch, a web video featuring Tom Moe, a retired Air Force colonel and former Vietnam prisoner of war. Moe tells the viewer that “you might not care” that Trump wants to deport 11 million Latinos or register Muslims or take other repulsive steps “because you are not one of them.” It adds the kicker that if Trump actually becomes president “he might get around to you.”

This element has been missing from the debate. The other candidates have been reluctant to offend Trump supporters and thus likely risk losing them if he falters. What the governor has done is push voters to confront squarely the essence of the Trump campaign, which involves more than reckless assertions about making Mexico pay for a wall at the border or resuming the use of torture. Trump doesn’t tell the truth, and even when proved wrong, he insists he is right.

That has been the pattern most recently with his story about seeing “thousands and thousands” of Muslims or Arab-Americans on the streets of New Jersey cheering the attacks on Sept. 11. He insists that most Syrian refugees are young men. (No, they are women and children.) He says President Obama wants to permit 200,000 Syrian refugees to enter the country. (The number is 10,000.)

All of this and more from someone who hasn’t spent a minute in elected office doing the work of governing. The governor should find worthy the task of exposing Trump, especially in view of his own resume, almost two decades in Washington, the past five years leading a large, complex state, working in banking and business in between.

Trump is a formidable presence, many attracted to his seeming straight talk. He also suggests he can bull his way through the presidency (in more ways than one). If only it was so easy.

More than anything, John Kasich has wanted to be part of a debate about what it means to be a Republican or a conservative. He is fulfilling that mission now in challenging Trump. It may the high point of his campaign, seeking to protect his party from further harm and worse.