At the Republican National Convention, Ohio Governor John Kasich used last night's prime-time speech to tell the story of the state's jobs comeback. The governor's critics though say it skated over some painful truths.
For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU's M.L. Schultze has more from Tampa.
Hours before Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivered a 10-minute speech to the Republican National Convention, he was musing about whether he’d flop or fly. “The two at which I’ve spoken didn’t go all that great. And we’ll see. Either we’ll have three in a row of not good talks or maybe the third time is a charm.”
After he was done, the consensus among the Ohio delegates was that John Kasich was charming – by honing in the story of Ohio’s economic recovery after suffering what he often describes as an $8 billion deficit.
“The actions that we took were not always easy. And the actions that we took were not always popular. But you know what, when you get in public service you must lead and you must do what is necessary. And I want to tell you the good news of where we are today. I told you a minute ago that when we came into office, we were 48th in job creation. You know where we are today? We’re fourth in American in job creation and No. 1 in the Midwest."
Kasich focused solely on economics in his speech. The closest he came to social issues when he spoke of jobs. “The greatest moral issue in America today is job creation. We had lost 400,000 jobs our people were hurting and our families were hurting as a result of the recession."
Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder – who has agreed with Kasich on most things—was among those praising the speech. "I think he was just outstanding. I think when he gave the numbers on what had happed in Ohio, 48th to 4th , I think that’s the kind of thing that really rings a bell. And we find in our polling that the people know a lot more than they get credit for; a lot of them realize that we’ve really turned a corner.”
Of course, most of the Ohio delegates showed up prepared to love the speech. They had center-court seats in the arena. And signs of support weren’t enough. Some held up red balloons spelling out “Ohio” and “Kasich.”
But Democrats back home were not impressed. Just about the time Kasich began his speech, Democrats were texting, tweeting and emailing about Kasich’s “fairytale,” and reminding reporters of the negatives.
Ed FitzGerald is Cuyahoga County’s chief executive and a Democrat often mentioned as a likely challenger to Kasich in two years. He prepared a video to rebut Kasich, detailing the role President Obama’s auto bailout in Ohio’s resurgence. “When those thousands of jobs were at risk, when the industry was literally teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, John Kasich and Mitt Romney had exact same position. Mitt Romney famously said we should let Detroit go bankrupt. And John Kasich called it throwing good money after bad. Rescuing an industry that touches one-in-eight Ohio jobs cannot be called a bad investment.”
FitzGerald also accused Kasich of balancing Ohio’s budget on the backs of local governments and schools.
“Last year, the Kasich budget raided funding to cities, counties and schools. And they diverted it to their own state government. As you would expect, the Kasich budget then created a ripple effect of cuts to techers, police officers and firefighter."
Bill Currin is an honorary Republican delegate. He’s also the recently retired mayor of Pepper Pike, who had to live with some of those cuts. “He did cut out some things that hit the cities, like cutting the local government funds in half, killing the estate tax and other unfunded mandates have been passed down. But by the same token, he had pointed out… we have got to cut out some expenses. We could save a lot by reducing a lot of redundancies, by sharing services, by some consolidations and, yes, maybe some mergers.”
Another Ohioan will play on the national stage. Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman will speak, and, like Kasich, he promises the speech will focus on economics, the debt and tax reform.