Ohio Gov. John Kasich became the 16th Republican running for the 2016 presidential nomination Tuesday, after months of campaigning in early primary and caucus states as an undeclared candidate.
And, in a rally of about 2,000 supporters at the Ohio State University’s student union Tuesday, he made it clear that he will focus on his record as governor and his argument that he has turned Ohio’s economy around and can do the same in Washington.
“I am here to ask you for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts because I have decided to run for President of the United States,” said Kasich.
Kasich didn’t do much to deviate from the same message he’s touted in Ohio ever since taking office in 2011. He’s hoping his record of creating jobs and putting more money in the state’s rainy day fund can impress voters in New Hampshire and Iowa.
Kasich promised balancing the budget and maintaining fiscal stability will be his number one goal as president.
“We will rebuild the economy of this country because creating jobs is our highest moral purpose and we will move to get that done,” Kasich said.
Kasich also stuck to his call for compassion and empathy. He said government can do more for those who suffer with drug addiction or deal with mental health issues. The governor said it’s something Ohio, the heartland, is already doing.
“We are going to take the lessons of the heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C.,” said Kasich.
Kasich joins a very crowded field of GOP hopefuls and needs to start getting better polling numbers in order to be eligible for the Republican presidential debate next month to be aired on FOX News Aug. 6. FOX News will take an average of five national polls and invite the top 10 candidates to participate in the debate at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, which will be the site of the 2016 GOP presidential nominating convention. As of today, Kasich’s poll numbers are so low that he would not qualify for the TV debate in his home state.
Republican Congressman Pat Tiberi said raising his poll numbers in time for the debate is going to take a lot of hard work and one-on-one interactions.
“What’s great about those states versus Texas and California—the early primary states—it’s more retail politics so people actually get to shake your hand and look you in the eye and that’s where John excels,” said Tiberi.
The governor’s celebration did not go unchallenged. A group of about 100 protesters lined up across the street from the Ohio Union. The crowd included education and abortion rights advocates.
Former State Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat from Cleveland, said there is another side to the Ohio economic rebound Kasich will tell on the campaign trail.
“The fact that we have almost $2 billion in the rainy day fund but it’s raining for local governments,” Turner said. “Local governments have to increase their taxes. More school levies on the ballot. But we have balanced the budget on the backs of local governments—$1.8 billion worth of cuts to K through 12 education so for a lot of what the governor had to say—the public policy positions that have a real impact on people’s everyday lives—I just don’t see it.”
The speech was vintage John Kasich. He did not use a teleprompter and did not stick to a script. He wrapped up his 40 minute address promising to do his best to serve everyday Americans who get out of bed and work for a decent living.
“The light of a city on a hill cannot be hidden. The light of a city on a hill cannot be hidden. America is that city and you are that light. God bless you and God bless America,” said Kasich.
The governor has a packed campaign schedule, visiting New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Michigan before the week ends.