In his State of the State speech Governor John Kasich talked for nearly-one and a half hours about how awesome Ohio was doing under his guidance. But as the presidential race heats up, and Romney tries put a negative spin on the nation’s economy, Kasich’s message has started to change.
Back in February, Kasich spent 422 words of his State of the State specifically talking about Ohio’s auto industry, starting off with “Ohio does have a base industry in auto. No question about it” and continuing on to praise GM (“Chevy Cruze, baby!”), Chrysler, Ford and Honda for the jobs they are creating and for their “major investment in Ohio”.
Back in Februray, Kasich properly bragged that Ohio is “number two in America on Ford investment”, Chrysler made “a half a billion dollar investment in Toledo” creating “1,105 jobs”, and Honda’s progress in Ohio on investment and job training is “fantastic!”. Kasich seemed to recognize that the automotive industry is a vital part of Ohio’s economy and, even though Kasich failed to support President Obama’s bailout that saved US automakers and all of the companies and jobs associated with them, Kasich rightfully put aside partisan bickering to give them their proper due. In late January Kasich went so far as to proclaim that he hopes President Obama gets “all the credit” for the improving job numbers in Ohio.
Lately, however, Kasich has starting changing his tune.
The turning point appears to have been in May right after Mitt came to campaign with Kasich. During their disastrous joint appearance at Otterbein University, Kasich joyfully and quite aggressively crapped all over Romney’s “Obama Economy” message, telling a worried college kid that her prospects for a job are not as dim as they may seem because there are 80,000 unfilled jobs in Ohio. Romney visibly cringed. I’m sure his staffers were behind the camera making much more worried faces.
We’re not exactly sure exactly what the Romney camp did or said following that appearance, but we do know Romney and Kasich haven’t been seen together since. As we pointed out earlier this week, Kasich recently “backed out” of a call with reporters scheduled by the Romney campaign. And during Romney’s Ohio bus tour this past weekend, Kasich appeared at exactly zero events.
After hearing the news this week that Romney’s team specifically asked Florida’s governor to downplay his state’s own economic success, we can’t help but think the same message went out to Kasich’s folks. Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols admits that Kasich’s office “routinely” communicates with the Romney campaign, but he also claims they never asked the Governor to change his message. Maybe Nichols wasn’t privy to those conversations, or maybe he’s telling the truth. Who knows? But the fact is this: Kasich absolutely HAS changed his message, and it almost certainly is related to the presidential campaign.
Which brings me back to the auto industry.
Romney opposed the auto bailout that likely saved the industry and thousands of jobs in Ohio. And while President Obama continues to rightfully use the successful bailout as a campaign talking point, Romney is searching for a way to show that Obama’s big investment in America’s auto makers did not pay off, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary.
And how does he do that? By getting John Kasich to suddenly have a change of heart about the impact the auto industry has in Ohio.
After calling automotive companies “Fantastic!” and praising their huge investment and job creation in our state, Kasich suddenly started downplaying the whole industry’s impact in Ohio. According to the Dispatch, Kasich told CNN that only “700” of the jobs “added since January 2011 were automotive jobs.” He later corrected the number upward, but it still should be noted that Kasich’s original number doesn’t even match the jobs he claimed Chrysler created (1,105) in his state of the state speech.
Back in January and February Ohio’s Kasich claimed Ohio was moving forward. He said families are better off, job creation was up and the auto industry was “fastastic!” And Governor Kasich said he hoped Obama got all the credit.
Now it’s almost July and suddenly all that has changed? President Obama is now causing there to be some kind of “wind” in our face that is preventing us from moving forward and without Mitt Romney as President, everything is going to go to hell? And all of a sudden the auto industry is not amazingly important to the Ohio economy and is creating fewer jobs that originally claimed?
It’s worth mentioning that innovation Ohio released a report yesterday rebuking Kasich’s latest claims about the auto industry. As they point out, of the “29 largest private investments made in 2011, 11 were in the automobile industry totaling over $1.7 Billion in investments” and “from its low point in June 2009, the [auto industry in Ohio] has added 12,462 jobs.”
12,462 jobs is wildly different than 700 (or 1800 or whatever number Kasich is using now). And I can absolutely assure you that if this wasn’t a presidential election year, Kasich would be out touting the same numbers as IO.
I can’t tell you for sure if Romney’s campaign asked Kasich to “tone down his statements” about the improving economy or the auto industry, though I’m not exactly sure what else they’d be talking about on all of those calls they have with the campaign (it certainly isn’t about scheduling joint appearance for John and Mitt). But I do know this for sure: the Governor’s Office has done one hell of a job coming up with a new story in four short months that now precisely matches the talking points of the Republican presidential candidate.