Shortly after the Republican Party’s 2010 victory, Governor-elect John Kasich’s first priority was attempting to getting Kevin DeWine replaced as Chairman of the Ohio Republican Party by Kasich confidante/Franklin GOP Chairman Doug Preisse.  Not surprisingly, the Ohio Republican Party Central Committee saw no reason to replace the man who had just led the GOP party out of the political wilderness and back into power, sweeping all the State races, winning back the Ohio House, and picking up five Congressional seats (Space, Wilson, Boccieri, Driehaus, and Kilroy). So Kasich’s GOP coup was thwarted, and a rivalry deepened.  Preisse got a consolation prize of quickly becoming one of the wealthiest lobbyists in Ohio.

Kasich had kept DeWine and the State party largely out of the loop when he picked then State Auditor Mary Taylor to be his running mate at the last-minute, sending DeWine scrambling to locate a candidate for the one non-judicial statewide office the GOP managed to hold onto after the 2006 massacre.

Kasich’s camp is deeply paranoid about Secretary of State Jon Husted, with whom supposedly DeWine is allied (in conservative circles, this has almost been accepted as a given fact, but nobody has ever been able to point to any evidence of it).  Kamp Kasich is utterly convinced that Husted might primary Kasich in 2014 even though the Ohio Republican Party doesn’t have serious primaries in incumbent races (seriously, when was the last one?  Taft didn’t even get a primary challenge).  Instead of focusing on “stop sucking” and doing something to improve his stellar 36% approval rating, naturally Kamp Kasich’s plan is instead to try to tear Husted down, as they still blame him for not doing more to make it harder on labor with Issue 2 by, you know, following the law instead.

Enter last week’s Mitt Romney fiasco.  Almost immediately after it began, Kamp Kasich went into overdrive to blame the Romney disaster on… ORP Chairman Kevin DeWine with a nonsense conspiracy theory that somehow this was some DeWine plot to embarrass Kasich:

Two sources with ties to Governor Kasich suggested that the Romney appearance was designed to humiliate Ohio’s governor.

Specifically, they suggested, Romney was advised not to take a side on this unpopular issue.

I can tell you that those [DeWine’s] sentiments [about Issue 2] have been made clear to governor Romney. The opinion of those close to the [Ohio] chairman is that Romney should stay as far away from this thing as possible. That it is unpopular,” said the experienced operative.

“They are covering their ass,” says the operative with ties to Kasich, “The politicos in Ohio are pissed about what happened. It’s not a good showing for him… Romney lost a lot of support in Ohio. Donors too, we have donors that wrote $1 million checks to this campaign [on Issue 2] and are Romney supporters. I don’t think they are happy how this went down.”

This theory, that DeWine specifically brought Romney in on Issue 2 on his clout and then counseled him to keep his distance on the issue (while standing in Issue 2’s regional campaign HQ) got so much currency that at least one major GOP donor actually publicly called on DeWine to resign.  (The donor and his wife maxed out to John Kasich, or very close to it, with over $33,000 in total donations to his campaign).

Governor Kasich brings forth Senate Bill 5, botches it so badly it becomes one of the most politically toxic thing for the entire Ohio Republican brand – you’d think it was a Coingate indictment – and he’s already laying the groundwork to use its defeat to do what the election victories in 2010 prevented him from doing: dumping Kevin DeWine.  Think about the sheer insanity of this.  Kevin DeWine had nothing to do with SB 5, except the inglorious task of trying to rally the electoral Republican machine to do battle with the sleeping giant that is organized labor in Ohio, awoken by John Kasich.  And the first result of Issue 2’s defeat is that Governor John Kasich’s political power base in the state party might get… stronger as a result if DeWine is made the sacrificial lamb for its defeat?

When Quinnipiac’s polling showed a twenty-five point margin in favor of repeal, I wrote:

Expect Shannon Jones to be thrown under the Kasich bus as they continue to rewrite history and suggest that Jones went “rogue” and rolled out Senate Bill 5 prematurely (even though Kasich had enough notice about it to appear at the legislative unveiling of the bill and gave it his full endorsement.)  Grab the popcorn, folks.  It’s about to get really interesting over the next couple of weeks.

(In the same post, I predicted Romney would have to do something at his scheduled appearance at a Issue 2 function to keep his distance).

Enter yesterday’s National Review story, where Kamp Kasich is in full-spin mode:

First, the legislation is too complicated. Senate Bill 5 is a 302-page conservative wish list: a ban on public-employee strikes, a tightening of standards for union elections, and the elimination of automatic pay hikes, among other things. At first, Governor Kasich wanted to pass these reforms piecemeal — tuck a few into the state budget, add some more by separate legislation.

“We did not want to do the whole thing at once,” says William Batchelder (R.), speaker of the state house. “The governor and I agreed on that.”

Republicans control both houses of the legislature, but legislators have minds of their own. In February, state senator Shannon Jones (R.) introduced the catchall legislation, and state-senate Republicans, confident with their two-thirds majority, muscled it through the chamber. By March, the bill was passed, and the opposition was ready: Senate Bill 5 was a power grab — a pilfering of workers’ rights.

Tah-dah!  Except it’s entirely untrue.  First, the idea that Shannon Jones could just go rogue and introduce SB 5 like this is just laughable, especially since the launch was so coordinated that Governor Kasich specifically dropped by the legislative committee unveiling to give the bill his full endorsement. The  very next day he threatened that if the legislature didn’t pass it quickly enough, he’d insert it into his budget.

There’s another major defect in the “we wanted it in the budget originally theory.”   Guess which office was mostly responsible for inserting the “fair share fee” bans, union decertification provisions and PAC limitations into Senate Bill 5 when it moves to the House?  (Remember: those provisions, which even the Dispatch calls the biggest GOP overreach of the bill, did not exist until the House GOP unveiled their version of the bill, after the Senate narrowly passed its version by one twisted arm vote.)  Governor Kasich’s office!  In fact, e-mails from his office obtained through public records shows that when pushed to put some of these provisions in the budget, it was Kasich’s decision to put them in SB 5 instead, according to the Toledo Blade:

In response to an email from state Rep. Kristina Roegner (R., Hudson) urging the addition of PAC contribution and fair-share fee language to the state budget, Mr. Kasich’s legislative liaison, Matt Carle, responded, “I don’t think you’ll have to wait for the budget to see these changes made to the state’s collective bargaining. We’ve proposed that they include them in S.B. 5. I’d also like to include them in the budget, but I’ll let you know how that conversation goes.’’

“That conversation’’ resulted in these amendments to Senate Bill 5, but not to the $55.8 billion, two-year budget that passed about two months later.

For several months the Columbus Dispatch has reported, unchallenged, the theory that Governor Kasich really wanted a piecemeal approach that incorporated most of these provisions in the budget, but Shannon Jones jumped the gun.  It’s hard to square that unsupported theory with these e-mails.  In fact, now Governor Kasich has also claimed that it was smart to keep this all in Senate Bill 5 and not the budget because it distracted people from criticizing his budget (I swear, he honestly thinks he’s Snidely Whiplash as Governor). Folks, we literally have John Kasich making two completely contradictory claims within a day of one another.

But back to that National Review article.  In it, Kamp Kasich again tries to lay blame for Issue 2’s defeat at the feet of… Jon Husted:

In August, the state Ballot Board finalized the ballot language (“Shall the law be approved?”), and Republicans again faltered. The board comprises two Democrats, two Republicans, and the secretary of state, Jon Husted (R.). One Republican member, Faber, argued that opponents of the bill should have to vote “Yes” on the referendum. “The other side marketed the referendum on the premise of repealing the bill,” Faber explains. “The question on the ballot should have been, ‘Shall Senate Bill 5 be repealed?’” What’s more, people tend to vote “No” on referenda when confused by its language, so this wording would have advantaged the Republican side. Over 80 percent of state referenda phrased in this manner fail, partly because of this bias.

In an attempt at evenhandedness, however, Husted proposed that the question require opponents to vote “No.” The past twelve referenda had followed this format, according to his office’s records.

But since we’ve been able to see campaign finance reports of Building a Better Ohio, we have learned that they have done a ton of polling on this issue (which they have never publicly revealed or claimed showed them with any hope of winning).  And the National Review shows ultimately why Issue 2 will fail:

According to a source familiar with the situation, the pro-reform forces commissioned a focus group led by Frank Luntz that found Kasich’s association with the bill was toxic.

How toxic?  Well, the RGA stopped paying for ads that featured Kasich.  Building a Better Ohio has avoided mentioning Kasich, for the most part, during the entire campaign.  Which makes their decision to release their latest ad a complete puzzler:

If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear Kasich wants Issue 2 to fail, or he’s just too arrogant to realize he’s lost his touch with the Ohio voting public.

Opposition to Issue 2 nearly doubled in the month the RGA was running these ads under its PAC called “Make Ohio Great,” which suddenly stopped running ads and instead donated directly to the Building a Better Ohio campaign.  Building a Better Ohio has received over $28,000 in in-kind contributions from Americans for Prosperity in the form of radio ads and GOTV telephone banking.  It did not report any in-kind donation from the RGA or “Make Ohio Great.”  However, this ad seems strangely similar to the kind of ads the RGA group had been airing and nothing like the ads Building a Better Ohio is airing.  It has all the appearance of being a leftover ad in the can that was filmed at the same time as the others, but now only being aired by the only pro-Issue 2 organization controlled by Kasich’s most loyal staffers.

This is the arrogance of Kasich in full display.  Even after Frank Lutz tells them that Kasich is single-handedly Issue 2’s biggest political liability, John Kasich thinks he can take off his tie, spew garbage about how after three months of rising unemployment followed by the second largest monthly loss of jobs in the nation, he’s got Ohio on track now, and the people of Ohio will suddenly flock to support Issue 2 at the last-minute.  Like we all forgot that he supported Issue 2.  What Kasich forgets is that he never asked Ohioans during that campaign a year ago to support his anti-union agenda.  He only revealed that immediately after he won.

John Kasich has nobody to blame but himself.  He asked for this fight.  He begged for it.  When conservatives like controversial firebrand Willie Cunningham in Cincinnati warned Kasich on his show that he was playing with fire, Kasich arrogantly dismissed and ridiculed the criticism.  He wanted this fight.

I’d say let’s finish it, but when the Republicans are already doing the post-mortem on Issue 2 a week before the election.  Well…vote anyways.  It’ll just piss Kasich off who will blame Husted for letting you vote at all.

Vote No on Issue 2!