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0000017a-3b40-d913-abfe-bf44a4f90000Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU news team as the politics reporter and columnist in April 2012 , after 30 years of covering local, state and national politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. On this page, you will find his weekly column, Politically Speaking; the Monday morning political chats with News Director Maryanne Zeleznik and other news coverage by Wilkinson. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio gubernatorial race since 1974, as well as 16 presidential nominating conventions. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots, the Lucasville prison riot in 1993, the Air Canada plane crash at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983, and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. And, given his passion for baseball, you might even find some stories about the Cincinnati Reds here from time to time.

Why Mary Taylor Is Sprinting Away From John Kasich

Politically Speaking

So, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor – who wants to be the next governor – is running away from Gov. John Kasich at the speed of light.

And the apparent front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine hasn't gone out of his way to court the support of the present governor.

Kasich, for his part, responds to all of this with his usual reaction to such things – he shrugs his shoulders, moves on, and books another trip to New Hampshire for April, making it abundantly clear that, one way or another, he plans on running for president again in 2020.

At an Ohio Statehouse event last week, Kasich told reporters Taylor – who has been his running mate in the last two gubernatorial elections – that she has "been a great teammate, a great, loyal partner" and that Taylor "has a right to be independent."

Credit Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio
Ohio GOP gubernatorial candidate Mary Taylor

But he also points out that maybe he is not the political poison that Taylor and others in the Ohio GOP think he is. He still has a high approval rating and he pointed out that he did win 86 of 88 counties in his 2014 re-election bid.

What he didn't mention was that his 2014 re-election was against one of the weakest Democratic gubernatorial candidates in the history of Ohio, Ed FitzGerald of Cleveland.

Mack Mariani, associate professor and chair of the political science department at Xavier University, does think it is remarkable that someone like Taylor, who has been part of the Kasich administration for nearly two terms now, is running so hard to get away from him.

"It's amazing when you think about the massive victory Kasich had in 2014, even though it was against a weak opponent,'' Mariani said. "And Kasich has fundraising lists that could be a big help to Taylor, running as the underdog."

But he understands it; and it all boils down to one thing – Donald Trump.

Trump has the loyalty of a substantial block of GOP voters – Ohioans who helped Trump win the Buckeye State in the 2016 presidential election.

Taylor and her running mate, Cincinnati businessman Nathan Estruth, want to win them over.

So, too, do DeWine and his running mate, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted.

There are a lot of conservative Republicans and Trump supporters who are upset with Kasich over his continuing criticism of Trump and his administration and still hold a grudge because Kasich did an end-run around the Republican-controlled legislature and expanded Medicaid coverage, mainly for the working poor, under Obamacare.

"She (Taylor) is looking at the numbers; and what she is probably seeing is that there are a whole lot of Republican primary voters out there who aren't real happy with Kasich,'' Mariani said.

And many of them – those who support Trump – resent the fact that Kasich continues to hound Trump and is clearly preparing for another run for the White House in 2020, Mariani said.

Kasich, Mariani said, "is term-limited and that frees him to be John Kasich,'' Mariani said. "He's clearly interested in running for president. And he's angled himself as a centrist Trump critic."

Trump loyalists have been in charge of the Ohio Republican Party machinery for a year now, having ousted Kasich's people from the party leadership. Whether or not the present party leadership represents the mainstream of GOP primary voters remains to be seen.

But Mary Taylor, an underdog candidate for governor, clearly wants those Trump voters and doesn't believe being associated too closely with Kasich will help that cause.

Kyle Kondik, an Ohioan who is a political analyst for the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said there are "scattered signs" that Kasich is weak among Ohio Republican voters.

He pointed to a 2016 exit poll that showed Hillary Clinton doing better with people who liked Kasich than those who didn't, "indicating his crossover appeal, but also his weakness with Republicans."

"The behavior by Taylor indicates she thinks Kasich's support is a liability as opposed to an asset,'' Kondik said.

And so, she runs as far away as she can get from the Trump nemesis Kasich.

Little wonder, then, that she is pretending that Kasich has not said that he endorses her candidacy.

So she runs away from Kasich, runs toward Trump. The problem with that is that if she can find a way to win the primary, she might have to change directions and put some distance between herself and Trump for the general election.

And, then again, maybe Kasich was right in what he said last week at the Statehouse: "I don't think endorsements really matter anyway."