John Kasich didn’t exactly “wow” the Columbus Dispatch’s editorial board that will still manage to find a way to endorse him despite making observations about his endorsement interview like:

Although Strickland didn’t appear to make any glaring misstatements during a two-hour appearance with Kasich before the Dispatch editorial board Friday, Kasich cited several “facts” that were either wrong or misleading.

They included mistaking Steubenville for Youngstown in criticism of school funding, using budget figures in a questionable way and assigning untrue motives for an Ohio company’s move to Indiana.

Kasich, who has signed a pledge not to raise taxes, also told the newspaper that he doesn’t think eliminating tax “loopholes” would violate that pledge. The leader of the organization behind the pledge said yesterday that that would be true only if Kasich cuts other taxes to offset the increase in revenue.

During his interview with The Dispatch, Kasich argued that the state’s regulatory climate is hurting job growth, citing as an example Continental Structural Plastics’ forced move from northwestern Ohio to Indiana.

“Up in North Baltimore, you had the (state Environmental Protection Agency) put the heat on the company,” Kasich said. “You know where they are now? They’re in Indiana.”

Kasich also cited the company in a news release this summer touting a plan for regulatory reform. But the company’s CEO, Bruce Landino, told The Dispatch yesterday that operational costs – not the Ohio EPA – were behind the decision.

“It has nothing to do with regulatory issues or the political climate or anything else,” Landino said. “It’s just not making any money in that location.”

And it goes downhill from there….

During his interview, Kasich also criticized Strickland’s handling of state finances by saying state spending “is going to grow by almost 11 percent” in the fiscal year that started July1, citing a Legislative Service Commission analysis.

When state leaders and the media refer to the state budget, they typically talk about the general-revenue fund, currently about $50billion over two years. It contains nearly all state tax revenue, and it is the part of the budget that leaders most worry about keeping balanced.

But Kasich is pointing to the larger “all-funds” budget. It includes the general-revenue fund, plus pass-through money for state and local governments and a variety of mostly federal funds and state fees that are restricted to specific purposes.

Critics question the use of the all-funds number for a variety of reasons: overly generous estimates; some double-counted spending; and money that isn’t even state spending, such as $3.1 billion in tax refunds or $4.4 billion in local taxes distributed on behalf of counties and school districts.

The budget “was balanced with $2 billion in spending cuts without raising taxes. Only Congressman Kasich, using Wall Street math, could turn $2 billion in spending cuts into an 11 percent increase,” said Amanda Wurst, Strickland’s spokeswoman.

However, with the addition of billions in federal stimulus money, Ohio is spending much more than usual outside the general-revenue fund, particularly for Medicaid and K-12 education. Republicans including the Kasich campaign have argued that this means the general-revenue fund does not paint the full budget picture.

But Kasich is not doing a straight comparison to get his 11 percent figure. He is comparing actual spending in 2010 to estimates for 2011, which means that savings in the first half of the two-year budget cycle actually are considered bad because on paper it looks like there will be a large increase in the second year to get to the combined amount budgeted for both years.

Choosing which years to measure also makes a difference. If Kasich had compared the all-funds budget for the 2010 budget year to the one for 2009, he would have found a spending decrease.

Kasich, using some questionable method of comparing state spending in the first place, claims that State spending is skyrocketing, when it’s actually decreased from the year prior.

Kasich critics also noted that although Kasich has signed a pledge sponsored by Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform “to oppose and veto any and all attempts to increase taxes,” he told The Dispatch that he doesn’t think eliminating a tax loophole is a tax increase or violates the pledge.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, told The Dispatch yesterday that any move to close tax loopholes would be a tax increase and a violation of the pledge without offsetting tax cuts of equal value.

“The pledge is no net tax increases,” Norquist said. “As long as you have offsetting cuts somewhere else, that’s OK. As long as it’s not a dirty trick to raise taxes.”

The problem is that Kasich talked about closing those “loopholes” as a means to balance the budget.  It’s hard to see how he could do that while still complying with the ATR’s “revenue neutral” caveat.  Kasich is clearly is lying.

Notice something else about the article?  Despite Kasich’s numerous public statements that he’s “running a positive campaign” and “not mentioning his opponent” Kasich spends most of the article going negative on Strickland.  He spent most of the interview trying to attack Strickland.

Why is that Fox News?

“John Kasich (R) is ahead of Gov. Ted Strickland (D) in the race for governor, 48% to 43%.”

Yep, instead of the double-digit lead the Dispatch poll and Rasmussen poll showed two weeks ago, even Fox News shows it pretty much in the margins. (Fox shows Portman with a slightly larger six point lead.)

If John Kasich thought he was sitting on a double-digit lead, he wouldn’t have gone negative against Strickland so strongly in an editorial board endorsement that most insiders believe Kasich already had in the bag the day he filed.  Rob Portman wouldn’t be releasing an even sharper negative ad against Lee Fisher if he thought he had a double digit lead right now.

It’s nice to see that the Dispatch was willing to call Kasich out on so many factual errors of Strickland’s record.  Let’s hope they keep it up with tonight’s debate.

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