Ohio Gov. John Kasich is legend for exaggerating and playing fast and loose with facts. He showed his performance politician skills again when he claimed on national TV last week that he left Washington with a $5 trillion surplus.

When it comes to the facts, Ohio’s term-limited governor is a master at obfuscating them so much that his PR handlers always have to clean up after him. That was again the case when he failed to inform viewers that what he said wasn’t based in fact but on assumptions that never came true.

When John Kasich Left Washington

“When I left Washington, we had a $5 trillion surplus,” Mr. Kasich said last Sunday in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times [TBT] looked into Kasich’s claim and found it “mostly false.”

This comes as no surprise to anyone who has half-followed Mr. Kasich’s long and lucrative arc in Republican politics. As GOP White House wannabees thin out the herd, as former Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have done recently, more scrutiny will focus on John Kasich, his 18-year record in Congress and his five years as Governor of Ohio.

“Look, I was there in the ’90s when we actually got things done,” Kasich said in an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation. “Think about it. We changed the welfare system, which had been in place for about 40 years. We balanced the budget, of which I was chief architect. And we cut taxes. The economy was growing and we were doing great. And when I left Washington, we had a $5 trillion surplus,” Mr. Kasich told “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson, according to the TBT.

That year, the federal government registered a $236 billion surplus that in so-called raw dollars was the biggest one-year surplus in American history. But as Jacobson notes, “…it’s not anywhere near the $5-trillion number that Kasich mentioned. So what’s going on?”

Jacobson reports the Kasich campaign said it came from a 10-year figure for the size of the future surplus as determined by the Clinton administration in 2000, which “projected a cumulative $5 trillion surplus over 10 years, 2001 through 2010.” The TBT article notes that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a lower surplus over the same time period of $4.6 trillion.

For obvious reasons, Gov. Kasich never mentions that he voted along with every other Republican in Congress in 1993 to oppose President Clinton’s budget that unleashed the floodgates of revenue that Mr. Kasich then took credit for. Had Congressman Kasich’s side won, there probably wouldn’t have been the surplus he claims he left Washington with.

‘Elliptical Thinking’ Par For Kasich’s Course

A variety of reasons, from the technology bust, the post-9/11 attack recession and the Bush tax cuts that decreased tax revenues collected, made Kasich’s claim of the DC bounty mostly false.

Covering up for his unsubstantiated claim, Kasich’s campaign handlers told Jacobson that the governor’s “phrasing was somewhat elliptical.”

“It’s a bit of budget jargon to shorthand it to a ‘$5 trillion surplus’ and leave off the ‘projected,’ but it reflects the way these types of projections are used in policy and budget planning,” Chris Schrimpf, a spokesman for Kasich, said, according to the TBT. Rob Nichols, a long-time apologist and re-interpreter of what his boss says, said Gov. Kasich “typically notes that the $5 trillion was a projected surplus, but failed to do so in this instance.”

The Exaggerator

When John Kasich ran for governor in 2010, he said Ohio was broke, pointing to a study done by a Republican state auditor who projected Ohio’s budget shortfall would be $8 billion dollars. That Republican auditor, Mary Taylor, became Kasich’s Lt. Gov. running mate. Taylor’s study was not only a partisan hatchet job to set then Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland up for the onslaught of claims that he “didn’t get the jobs done” during the second worse economic meltdown since the Great Depression, but it has become a pillar in Kasich’s talking points ever since. Gov. Kasich, who has spent $5 million or more to promote himself but still can’t break into dougle-digits in national polling, boasts he took a state $8 billion in the hole and put it $2 billion in the black while reducing income taxes.

That legend became fact, and John Kasich has used it ever as he sells himself as the panacea for what ails the nation. An exaggerator by training, Gov. Kasich will find that he will have to backtrack on many of his claims as more attention is directed at him and his record.

Maybe, just maybe, this PolitiFact finding will force national reporters who appear to have swallowed his carefully crafted but mostly false narrative hook, line and sinker to take a closer look at his record. Kasich claims his past record will tell voters what he’s going to do if elected president.

What his past record shows is a giant abyss between what he says is true and what is true in reality.