Have you noticed that the old John Kasich is now the new John Kasich? Right.

The snap and bite in his words have disappeared. So have the swagger and metallic self-confidence. No more “bustin’ chops” with his friend Chris Christie before the awful bridgework. No more ill-humor that led to a blistering attack on a cop in a traffic stop. Not more warnings to lobbyists that if they’re not on his bus they will be run over. No more assaults on unions (he says he’s only against those unions that “don’t make things.”) He doesn’t ‘even feature his loony balance-budget talk scorned by experts. The hard edge, folks, is gone.

Instead, thanks to careful grooming by his image-makers for his current “presidential maybe” campaign, he is a good guy with an ear-to-ear grin, even a big laugh, with neatly combed hair and a neighborly goodwill that cheerfully reveals him as South Pacific’s “Cockeyed Optimist”. As he glowed to ABC’s Jonathan Karl, “I’m increasingly optimistic”. He said he was “very pleased” with what he ”found on the ground’ in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Michigan on his missionary visits. And he truly loves New Hampshire.

(Mitt Romney only mentioned that he loved the trees in Michigan because they are “just right height.”)

Optimism? Of course. The Oval Office requires deep experience, he says, and he has it like nobody else.

Foreign policy: Can the problems of the Middle East be solved? “Absolutely,” he says, with a coalition of allies, that included American boots on the ground.

Meantime, he’s not going to fuss with those Republican candidates who want a more direct approach with U.S. troops. He says he loves Marco Rubio and is not going to go after him. Nor will he settle for veep. “Forget it. Forget it. Forget it,” he crackles, the old chutzpah returning. He simply won’t settle for second place.

But wait. As Plunderbund just reported, the big Koch Brothers outfit Americans for Prosperity will stage its American Dream Summit in Kasich’s base of Columbus in August with a galaxy of conservative headliners. Kasich wasn’t invited. That could only mean that the Kochs don’t believe our governor will be much of a draw by then.

Maybe the guv should have said something nice about the trees in New Hampshire.