Ohio Governor John Kasich does not look like the type of man to be defiant. The Republican governor, after all, has been toeing the party line on issues concerning government spending and attacking unions and education. However, in recent months, Kasich has taken a tone that deliberately goes against a core tenet of the Republican Party: Every person must be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, and that the poor are poor because they are lazy, shiftless, and dependent on government. Kasich has instead moved against his own party by bypassing his own legislature and accepting federal funds to expand the state's Medicaid program. In doing so, Kasich demonstrates a willingness to help the poor and less fortunate, which resonates with Ohio residents.
The "culture of dependency" is based on an idea that dates back in one form or another for as long as the American Dream has existed. It is particularly strong among some strains of conservative thought (though not all), and a main talking point in the Republican Party leadership, and even its rebelling Tea Party: The notion that helping the poor is useless not just because it is wasting one's own resources, but because the poor become lazy and shiftless because they are being helped, and thus will not try to make do on their own. The belief ties in nicely with the notion of the self-made person, a person who got to where they are on their own terms by their own hard work. These beliefs are, in many ways, myths with actual examples more exceptions than anything else, but they are still beliefs that certain quarters of the American political spectrum hold up.
In expanding Medicaid, as well as expansions to mental illness programs and supporting efforts to improve education funding through taxes, John Kasich represents an opposition to that, one built on actual compassion towards others. It is not perfect: Kasich still cuts spending that could help the poor through education and other means, and pushes for tax cuts that only hamper efforts to improve the economy. But it is still a considerable act of defiance to take on such a key belief system, based on legitimate morals on altruism and faith.
Admittedly, such acts will likely help Governor Kasich in the long run politically as well: He faces a tough challenge in next year's gubernatorial election, and catering towards the poor will help him gain key moderate and independent voters in Ohio, well known as being one of the few "battleground" or "swing" states when it comes to Presidential elections. Kasich's moves may be intentionally political to shore up support. Still, that these actions benefit the poor to some extent, and that Kasich has gone out of the way to actually do something about it, bucks the stereotype that conservatives have no interest in helping the poor.