Gov. John Kasich continues his multi-state promotional tour for his book “Two Paths” through Friday. He’s appeared on national TV shows and done a number of interviews. And he’s talking about a lot more than just the book, sitting down for an interview in Westlake near Cleveland Sunday afternoon.
John Kasich has drawn bigger crowds at other signings, but this one at the Barnes and Noble in Westlake was small. About 50 people turned out, including Rebecca Boruszewski of Parma, who said she likes Kasich’s moderate approach. “I’m not overly conservative but I’m not overly liberal. So I really liked that he kind of had an objective view to everything.”
It was the first book signing ever for Steve Scimia of Westlake. “I think he seems to be good at trying to bring people together and move us past some divisive issues and focus on issues that are gonna benefit the country at large.”
But the event drew fans from much further away than northeast Ohio – including Lindsay and Eric Weisenburg of Buffalo, New York. Lindsay said she’d volunteered for Kasich during his campaign. “I went to the Trump events. And it’s a completely different feeling than the Kasich events. It’s hard to describe – it’s very emotional when Gov. Kasich speaks.”
Kasich signed books, posed for pictures and even prayed with one family. But he wouldn’t deliver on something that Brent Lander of Sandusky wanted to hear: “I hope he runs in 2020.”
Kasich has said a well-funded independent could potentially win the presidency – but said that isn’t him. “You take a savvy independent, you take a Michael Bloomberg – who I don’t think is going to run but I like Michael – a guy like Michael who’s savvy, understands politics and has enormous wealth, yeah, I think they could have a message and I think it could be very interesting.” But when asked if he’s that person: “No, no, no,” Kasich replied.
Kasich also said he has no interest in running against US Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) next year. But he said he’s going to keep raising money to keep speaking out on issues he cares about, such as a federal balanced budget amendment. The state budget is required to be balanced, and revenue is down $615 million for this fiscal year. The House made major changes to Kasich’s initial budget, including erasing a 17% income tax cut he’d proposed, paid for with higher taxes on cigarettes, e-cigarettes, alcohol and oil and natural gas drillers, and an increase in the state sales tax and a broadening it to more items and services. And now there’s an amendment that could freeze Medicaid expansion, which Kasich worked against most Republican lawmakers to create. “Well, I don’t know that that’s going to happen. But we’ll see,” Kasich said. “Look, what I want is a structurally balanced budget. And I believe we will have one. And there’s some Democrats that might actually vote for this. And when you say you took the tax cuts out – I told them to take them out. It doesn’t work quite that way. Look, budgets are very hard to do bipartisanly.”
I asked him to clarify that. “Yeah, I said we can’t have them if we got to cut the money out, we’ll take them out. But I’m for tax reform,” Kasich said. “But in terms of the straight tax cut, when you’re trying to take $800 million and you have a tax cut, it’s confusing to people. But if you can pay for a tax cut with tax reform, I’m all for that.”
While Democrats say he hasn’t done much to reach out to them in his years in the governor’s office, Kasich maintains he means the bipartisan message that he preaches, saying that he’s intervened in legislative talks when he feels Democrats are being treated unfairly, but doesn’t talk about that because he doesn’t want to embarrass anyone. But many Republicans are disappointed Kasich didn’t endorse Donald Trump after he won the nomination. Kasich, who said he was extremely disappointed in Trump's campaign-like rally on his 100th day in office on Saturday, said he’s unconcerned. “If you take a look at the Trump supporters, they’re not a very large number. They’re very passionate and they might be 30%. But that’s not 51% and that’s not the party,” Kasich said.
Kasich said one thing he is concerned about is workforce development, so Ohioans have the skills for the jobs that are available. But he said he’s feeling good about the reputation Ohio has among business leaders. When asked if the opioid crisis – which may be killing 11 people a day in Ohio – is hurting that reputation, Kasich said everyone’s facing that problem, and that Ohio will continue to work at it.