Gov. Kasich praised Cleveland as a “really cool” city.  That’s what he told the Plain Dealer, which was pleased to report it to its readers.

Cool.  The paper headlined that the governor has a “love affair” with the city, determined by the 77 days he has spent there since January 2011.

That,of course, set off extended speculation about this motives.  Is he just trying to be a nice guy in the town where he was  endorsed for governor by the friendly PD  in 2010?  Did he want to show he was far more committed to its welfare than his predecessor, Ted Strickland?  Nonsense, he demurs, he’s not at all political about his many trips to Lake Erie.  He  obviously enjoys the ride as much as the hordes of Ohioans who head down to Myrtle Beach every summer.

But what about the photo-ops of his visits showing him beaming as he hugs an African-American worker, or huddled with groups of black school children? Or referring to former NAACP leader and political factotum George Forbes as “King of Cleveland” for more style points?  You mean the same George Forbes, the Democrat who hung out with Jim Rhodes and never really embraced Govs. Dick Celeste and Jack Gilligan?  Yep.  That’s him.

Rhodes didn’t have to tramp around the city’s East Side in search of black votes.  When he became  governor, he named William O. Walker, as his  industrial relations director.  That, too, was cool, since Walker was the black publisher of the Call & Post, a weekly that was channeled into several  Ohio cities.  It effectively placed the governor on a pedestal in black neighborhoods.

Politically, the city has always been filled with land mines as the papers Etch-a-Sketched their positions on political candidates.  The Republican-based PD didn’t even mention Dennis Kucinich in its mayoral endorsement in the primary.  It then supported him in the general.  (The editors thought he had matured between the two elections. That was before they zapped him after he had been in office for awhile.)  The city’s political and media leaders get lonely at times and clamor for downstate attention.  Kasich is filling that need, if not the substance.

On the other hand, as Democrats are aware,  the governor’s  race begins the day after the presidential election.   And there’s a relatively new kid on the block in Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive, who is being mentioned as a possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate against Kasich.  Hmm…Where better for the current incumbent to launch his reelection campaign than in FitzGerald’s backyard?

So Kasich has endorsed a new school reform plan for Cleveland’s battered school system and signed it into law to impress the  city electorate with plenty of fanfare.  But there may be a typical Republican catch.  The  system is so destitute that it is putting a 15-mill levy in the ballot  to underwrite the reform plan fashioned by Mayor Jackson and others. The PD lauded everyone involved but editorially added one downer:

“Still, it is disappointing ” it complained,  “that although Gov. John Kasich backed Jackson’s plan as it wended its way through the sometimes hostile state legislature, he has been unwilling to contribute an extra nickel  to help implement it.”

With Kasich, it’s the thought that counts.