Governor Ted Strickland just announced he’s not backing down in his re-election fight in today’s year-end-review interview with the Statehouse press corp.  What is usually a dry event, turned into quite the story.  The Columbus Dispatch and the Cleveland Plain Dealer already have the story up.

On the budget compromise:

In a year-end interview with The Dispatch, Strickland said Ohio still would be dealing with its budget crisis and likely facing punishing cuts in education and other services “if a majority of Republican senators had had their way.”

The governor referred to last week’s vote in which only five of the 21 GOP senators supported a budget deal that they had insisted on.(Dispatch)

On GOP phony concerns about the next budget:

“They weren’t willing to do it now, yet they pretend to be really concerned about what’s going to happen in two years,” he said. (Dispatch)

GOP hypocrisy in their criticisms of Strickland:

Strickland said GOP lawmakers continually talk about the need to cut the size of government, but have done little toward that end. By contrast, he said, he has reduced the number of state employees by 4,900 since taking office.

I don’t know of a single thing they (Republicans) have been willing to cut, not a single thing,” Strickland said. “I am the one who has been willing to make tough decisions, even some that have caused some of my longest and best friends to be upset with me.” (Dispatch)

On race-baiting Kyle Sisk’s fabricated “rumors” about Strickland’s health:

“I’ll release my medical records when John Kasich releases his tax returns,” Strickland said. (Dispatch)

(Kasich says he will release his tax returns, but only for 2008… at some point.)

On Kasich:

“If the citizens of Ohio think times are tough now, if you were to eliminate nearly 40 percent of our state’s general revenue you would see. . . our state fall backwards quickly,” Strickland said. “And that’s what he seems to be advocating with the elimination of the state income tax.”

Nichols said Kasich would phase out the income tax over time, not immediately. Nichols would not say, however, how Kasich would replace the lost revenue. “We will be unfolding that more as this campaign unfolds,” he said. (Plain Dealer)

On jobs:

In both, Strickland cited the electric regulation bill, his green jobs efforts, and federal stimulus transportation projects will show a creation of jobs.

Strickland’s regret on slots:

Gov. Ted Strickland believes that pursuing slot machines at horse racing tracks to help the state budget was his biggest mistake as governor this year.

Strickland told The Associated Press in a year-end interview Monday that it was a mistake not to have been able to foresee that the Ohio Supreme Court would thwart the slots plan. (AP)

In relatively good (in comparison) economic times, Governor Voinovich was largely popular even though people would be hard-pressed to explain what he had done.  The opposite is true for bad economic times.  Strickland has a very defendable record of achievements.  The problem is that most Democratic activists, let alone other voters, don’t know much about what Strickland has done since being elected.  State politics is just not something that breaks through the clutter, especially with all the theatrics nationally.

As people learn more and more about Strickland’s record, particularly the fact that he’s cut taxes and spending while investing in education, keeping tuition in check, and developing a clean energy economy that puts Ohio to the forefront of developing tomorrow’s jobs today, you’ll see his numbers improve.

And Kasich can only delay for so long before he details where he’s going to cut to pay for his tax plan.

Strickland is ready for his last campaign, and he’s ready to make it Kasich’s as well.

In fact, you need to only look at the conservative blogsphere (minus out-of-state Kasich Blogger Jon Keeling, a.k.a. R.B. Horseysauce) and see several posts complaining that the GOP has lost the message war in the budget debate with the media’s stubborn refusal to call keeping taxes the same rate a tax hike.

You definitely sense that the budget deal was a turning point from where the Administration has been able to move from defense to offense.