Kasich kicked off the marketing campaign for his turnpike proposal by leaking a key fact to the Dispatch: a long-term lease is off the table.  (note: we predicted Vardon would have the info first after watching him and Kasich share a we-know-something-they-don’t look during a press gaggle yesterday)

Kasich isn’t stupid.  He knows how to play in the political arena.  And a turnpike lease proposal would likely have faced a referendum and driven his already crappy poll numbers further into the ground.   Yet he continued to discuss the option primarily to make the alternatives look much better.

This reminds me of the story of the kid who told his parents he was going to die.   And as they wiped the tears from their eyes, he said: “just kidding! but I do need to borrow $80K to pay off my drug dealer.”

Right now, all we know for sure is Kasich is NOT planning to lease the turnpike foreign investors.  But we’re fairly confident his plan will involve turning the ‘best maintained road in the state’ over to ODOT so they can raise tolls, cut maintenance and issue bonds against future toll revenue to make up for funds Kasich cut from their budget and to help fund other projects around the state that Kasich thinks will win him votes in 2014.

Kasich’s folks at ODOT referred to this option as a “hostile takeover” and there’s no reason to doubt their claims.

The big thing to remember as you watch Kasich’s big turnpike show over the next few days is that $3.4 million of your tax dollars paid for the whole thing, including a well-planned PR and marketing agenda complete with focus groups and message planning.

Kasich will try to tell you his turnpike study was “independent” and “unbiased” but keep in mind that his people hired, paid and directed the consultants.

While the Governor has not yet officially briefed the General Assembly, Vardon has quotes from a number of Kasich supporters in the state legislature including House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina who claims “people will be surprised by some of the proponents… There will be people from that part of the state who will be favorably disposed toward the governor’s proposal.”

Again, no surprise here.  As we reported on Monday, Kasich’s communications consultants have been busy since early this year trying to identify “champions” to support Kasich’s turnpike proposal.   The usual suspects like the Chamber of Commerce will certainly be involved.   As will other Kasich beneficiaries like Team NEO in Cleveland.  But expect to see someone like Mayor Mike Bell of Toledo, who was identified as a potential champion back in May, appearing with Kasich this week.

Just because Kasich took the politically-deadly turnpike lease off the table, doesn’t mean his plan is good for Ohio.   We highly recommend following Kasich’s own advice to “keep an open mind” while remembering: everything you are about to hear from Kasich was scripted and staged by PR and marketing professionals paid with your tax dollars.