COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. John Kasich used his prime-time speech Tuesday to delegates at the Republican National Convention to tell the story of Ohio’s jobs comeback, while walking a fine political line when it comes to President Barack Obama’s influence on that comeback.
The first-term governor reminded the audience in a 10-minute address that Ohio had lost 400,000 jobs during the recession by the time he took office in 2011. Kasich, a former congressman, Fox News commentator and Lehman Brothers managing director, also said Ohio has $500 million in its rainy day fund compared to 89 cents after he was elected.
“Most toddlers have more than 89 cents in their little piggy banks let alone what was in our treasury,” he said, speaking in Tampa, Fla.
The state was 48th in job creation rates and had an $8 billion deficit. Today, it’s ranked fourth in job creation nationally and first in the Midwest and erased the deficit without a statewide tax increase, Kasich said. The state has since gained 122,000 jobs, he said.
Yet even as Kasich boasted about Ohio and its success, he said Obama administration policies were hurting the state, smothering businesses and paralyzing job creators.
“We need a new partner in Washington,” Kasich said. “This relationship is just not working. It is holding us back.”
Absent from Kasich’s speech was any mention of Obama’s auto bailout, popular in a state where auto industry jobs employ thousands. Some of the jobs improvement has come from the recovering auto sector.
Just last week, General Motors announced it will invest $220 million at two Ohio factories to build the next generation Chevrolet Cruze compact car. The company says the investment in new equipment will preserve more than 5,000 jobs at factories in Parma near Cleveland, and Lordstown, near Youngstown.
It was a familiar tightrope act for Kasich, who must persuade Ohio voters to cast ballots against Obama even as the state’s economy continues to improve in part thanks to initiatives like the bailout.
Democrats were quick to point this out, with Obama spokeswoman Jessica Kershaw saying in a statement that because of Obama’s policies, “Ohio has turned a corner and is helping lead the nation out of the recession.”
The speech was a departure in one respect for Kasich: he delivered a brief and tightly crafted message compared to his preferred style of off-the-cuff remarks based on notecards.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.