The latest board game of presidential speculation has seen the media conveying Gov. Kasich as a possible GOP favorite at the party convention – two years hence, if you’re marking your calendar. Besides, what else is there to talk about these pent-up cabin-feverish wintry days?
In context, the Buckeye state has long borne the burden of being the Mother of Presidents, eight – seven of whom were natives. That would include three who are among the lowest ranked: Benjamin Harrison, U.S.Grant and Warren Harding.
To land in the White House, Kasich also would have to break a 93-year long dry spell that hasn’t elected a guy from Ohio since Harding. And there’s another historical matter that Kasich’s promoters must consider: He wouldn’t be the first modern Ohio governor to bestir pre-convention juices: There are four others who were the upbeat talk of the Ohio political class until they were not.
During his earlier terms, Jim Rhodes’ picture occasionally turned up on slick fold-ups with a dandy photo of him in full color and a can’t-miss caption: Rhodes for President. Huh!
Jack Gilligan ‘s inner circle was certain that he could capture the hearts and souls of the delegates at the 1974 Democratic mini-convention to sweep him to the nomination in 1976. Indeed, shortly before Gilligan’s City Club debate at the City Club with an empty chair set aside for Rhodes in ’74, a key member of his staff invited me to a restaurant to look at a thick private notebook on how the game plan (which I don’t think Gilligan had even seen) would catapult him to the White House.
My host was quite serious and batted away my reminder that Gilligan had some other business to take care of called an election that was just days away. The guy thought I was both naive and overly-dramatic. Rhodes beat Gilligan by 11,000 votes. Game, set, match.
Another Democratic governor, Dick Celeste, also was carefully touted for the top job by allies who considered him in style and substance to be the chosen one. Never happened. Not even close.
And, of course, John Glenn, who arrived at the 1976 convention as the “most popular” Democrat in the universe, a can’t-miss-nominee. Problem: His heart really wasn’t in seeking the job. He even turned down an offer by Ohio Democratic Chairman Paul Tipps to whip up a floor demonstration in his behalf. Glenn didn’t even bid on the veep post.
Still, here we are with national and state articles already talking about Kasich as a formidable choice for the big GOP deal. The Columbus Dispatch never ceases deliberating on his prospects.. And Sunday’s Plain Dealer carried think-pieces by two columnists mulling his current status as a possible candidate. Brent Larkin, however, did take clear notice of Kasich’s “fudging” of job numbers. You bet. The state ranked 13th in private job growth when he moved into the governor’s office in 2011. In 2013, it ranked 44th!
To those who say the governor’s race is already history, I’d say: With numbers like that, as well as other problems, not so fast. It could be Kasich-at-bat.
Abe Zaidan has been a professional journalist and freelance writer for more than forty years. He was the Ohio correspondent for the Washington Post, as well as a political columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal.