Kasich’s reelection campaign has already kicked off and right now he has one big goal: to make it difficult for any serious, viable Democratic challengers to get into the race.  This requires that he seriously improve his poll numbers and start raising a crap load of money.    To accomplish this, Team Kasich appears to be focused on three primary targets:  claim credit for improving economy, get one-time cash to fund local transportation projects and cut state income taxes.

JobsOhio and the Economy

Despite the fact that Ohio’s economic recovery started 13 months before Kasich even took office, John is still determined to convince Ohioans that it was all his doing.

With JobsOhio’s funding still in question, the Governor has decided to use the private, transparency-proof development organization to run ads in Ohio praising Kasich and the Ohio jobs he helped “save”.  It’s unclear if the $1.4 Million used to pay for this advertising campaign came from state dollars or from private donations, but you can bet this won’t be the last time we’ll see Kasich using JobsOhio as his own personal campaign marketing group.

In the mean time, the hundreds of millions in state incentives Kasich has doled out to companies he says were threatening to leave the state are not paying off.  Companies like Dielbold and American Greetings, who collectively received over $150 Million in state incentives, have laid off Ohio workers and cancelled or delayed plans to build new corporate headquarters in Ohio.

I bet everyone in the Governor’s office is REALLY thankful that whole $400 Million Sears deal fell through.

Cashing in on the Ohio Turnpike

We’re fairly certain Kasich plans to lease the Turnpike to likely-foreign investors, or to turn it over to ODOT so they can bond against it. Either way, the goal is the same: get a big lump of cash for local construction projects to make Kasich look like a bridge-building (literally) hero.

Kasich’s been planning this for awhile.  A recent hike in the tolls resulted in record revenue for the Turnpike this year, a tactic clearly aimed at making the Turnpike more appealing to potential investors.

The result of Kasich’s plans could be higher tolls, reduced maintenance, the loss of jobs by dedicated Turnpike employees as well as increased traffic on other state and local roads – all so he can get a one-time, short-term influx of cash to help his reelection. This selfish, short-sighted and seriously flawed plan is not popular with people in the 13 counties through which the Turnpike travels and it hasn’t polled well statewide either.

Kasich thinks people will be lining up to thank him with votes after he intentionally delayed their local construction projects just so he could later announce that he saved those same projects with Turnpike money. Kasich really thinks Ohioans are stupid enough to fall for that.

We’ll find out this month what the Governor is planning to do and we expect, like with his other big, unpopular plans, he’ll try to ram it through the legislature with as little debate as possible. But after all the legal battles resulting from any Turnpike decision, the negative feedback even Republican legislators will face from angry constituents, and the possibility that the authority granted by the legislature could be up for a referendum, there’s a good chance that any action on the Turnpike – and the associated money Kasich is expecting to get from it – could be delayed.

Even if they do manage to push something through, there’s no way most projects he hopes to fund could ever be completed by the 2014 election  Instead, expect Kasich to do a lot of photo-ops at road and bridge construction projects, with his ceremonial hard hat and shovel, telling reporters how his “leveraging” of the Ohio Turnpike made it all possible.

Income Tax Cut/Severance Tax Increase

Speaking of other unpopular proposals,Conservative Matt Mayer and a Republican polling firm found that only 23% of Ohioans agree with Kasich’s plan to increase taxes on oil and gas exploration in order to fund a meager income tax cut for themselves. (44% disagreed, 33% unsure/no opinion).  Mayer and other conservatives make the point that raising severance taxes will deter oil and gas companies from investing in Ohio.

Personally, I think the severance tax should be higher, with the extra money going to local governments that are already suffering under huge cuts imposed by Kasich.    Members of the GOP actually considered this option, until it was shut down by Kasich.

Either way, Ohioans aren’t as stupid as Kasich believes.   Raising taxes on businesses to provide a tiny personal income tax break of a few dollars a week doesn’t have nearly the political impact Kasich believes, and it has a huge potential to backfire.

Kasich’s team is dreaming of their “John Kasich Cut Your Income Taxes”  ads but they should be dreading the Dem ads showing how Kasich raised taxes on Ohio businesses and how his massive cuts to local government cost the jobs of police officers and fire fighters and caused the number of local levies, and amount of local taxes, to skyrocket.

Kasich is desperately hoping people will forget the disaster of SB5 by 2014, and he’s working hard to distract Ohioans away from that huge failure early in his administration.  With his budget due in early February, we can expect him to showcase the rest of his reelection campaign strategy in his budget priorities.  Will he attempt to win over African American voters by casting himself as the savior of Ohio’s poorly-performing inner city schools, following up on the Cleveland Plan with similar plans for other big cities?   Will he try to bid out operations of the Ohio Lottery for more one-time cash to help buy up more votes?

We’ll have to wait and see.  But know this for sure:  everything Kasich does, or does not do, from now until November 2014 is absolutely part of his campaign strategy to get reelected.