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Ohio Gov. John Kasich, finishing lunch at the Westerville Grill on August 30, 2013.

National and state Democratic leaders offered media a very different and decidedly unsettling view of the upbeat news about Ohio Gov. John Kasich was expected to deliver Thursday night in Cleveland, location for the first Republican debate sponsored by Fox News.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, kicked off the event held at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Cleveland, across from Quicken Arena, venue for the prime time lineup featuring 10 Republican presidential hopefuls, including Gov. Kasich,  sponsored by Fox News.

“The people of the Forest City are going to get an up close and personal look at the Republican Party of today, and I’m confident that when they get a close look, they won’t like what they see. They [GOP candidates] are all the same. All of the Republicans who are running for president in 2016 are singing off the same song sheet and working from the same old tired Republican playbook.”

Twice elected, Kasich was the last candidate to fill out the top ten candidates, based on national polls Fox News used to make their calculus about which contenders enjoy center-ring status and which are relegated to a subcard event held in an empty arena.

A former Fox News political talk show host himself, Gov. Kasich could easily have been on the undercard had Fox included a poll that wasn’t helpful to the term-limited chief executive, whose polling so far is stuck at three percent or below, miles below leader Donald Trump, who will be center stage while Kasich will be far right. But now that Mr. Kasich has made the cut, this time, his message is cloaked in hope and compassionate governance. Not surprisingly, Democrats at a pre-debate event today were candid and blunt about just how misleading the governor’s narrative of him saving Ohio is.

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DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz speaks at the Radisson Hotel in Cleveland. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, left, and Ohio U.S. House Members Marcy Kaptur and Tim Ryan look on.

In addition to Wasserman Schultz, the Democratic leaders included David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, Nina Turner, ODP Engagement Director and two congressional delegation members, Marcy Kaptur of Toledo and Tim Ryan of Youngstown.

Dems Off ‘Fantasy Football’ Questions For Kasich

Asked to pretend it was fantasy football, and tonight’s three Fox News moderators—Chris Wallace, Megyn Kelly and Bret Baier—in light of news that they want to keep the candidates on their toes, asked each of them to suggest a question to ask Gov. Kasich.

David Pepper wanted to know why Ohio has trailed the country for 32 months in job growth, why wage stagnation has continued under Kasich. His most pressing question, though, is why Gov. Kasich wouldn’t want to know more about grade fixing in for-profit Ohio schools? Pepper said it “should be a scandal” because it’s “out of control” and its benefiting Republicans and involved the husband of Gov. Kasich former chief of staff who is now his presidential campaign manager?

Marcy Kaptur wanted to ask Gov.Kasich about surface transportation and where the dollars collected along the Ohio Turnpike are really being spent? “It’s almost impossible to ascertain, and we are trying, to figure out where the state of Ohio is taking those dollars. I cannot tell you,” she said. She likened it to double taxation, where people here tax themselves, and because federal dollars don’t come to the I-80/90 Corridor, dollars diverted from I-80/90 that go elsewhere constrict economic growth in the north. “Where is he putting those dollars,” she asked? Kaptur also wanted to know why, if Gov. Kasich is indeed so pro-life, is Ohio near the bottom of states in infant mortality?

Tim Ryan joked that as a Brown’s fan, he hates to engage in fantasy football, but his question for Gov. Kasich is, with 1 of each 8 jobs in Ohio related to the auto industry, why wouldn’t he be for refinancing American auto manufactures? He took issue with Kasich’s “philosophy” of giving away $400 million in federal funds that could have been used to upgrade rail and, eventually, lead to high speed rail. Why did he not want to take federal funds in the case of rail, and be responsible for what comes next, but then expands Medicaid which is also federal money. “Lots of inconsistencies; why don’t we have $400 million invested, creating jobs.”

Nina Turner, citing today as the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, said her biggest disappoint with Gov. Kasich was signing a bill that took away Golden Week, a week when an eligible resident could both register to vote and vote on the same day. As a member of the Ohio legislature when Kasich signed a bill that did eliminate Golden Week, Turner said, “That’s so important to increasing access; most people don’t run for office, but it’s your right to express yourself through the ballot box. It is the great equalizer,” she said. Wasserman Schultz called Turner one of the party’s “star running backs.”

The Florida congresswoman then pointed to the irony of John Kasich, who signed bills to keep people from voting, arguing that the selection of candidates for Fox’s lineup should be expansive to include him when his ratings were lower than they are now, having spent $3 million to boost them. “He just barely made it,” she said of Kasich being last man on stage. “Some irony, he fought to be included in the debate, and fought hard to constrict Ohioan’s access to the ballot box, and preventing people from being included in our electoral process.”

 

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