Ohio Governor John Kasich on The Buckeye State’s Comeback, 2014 Re-election and 2016 Plans
HH: I want to begin with a political story and talk a little bit about the fact that today, Cincinnati and Las Vegas withdrew their bids to become the host city for the GOP convention in 2016. Reince Priebus will join me later in the hour, and I’m going to make the case for Cleveland. But I think the guy who’s in the best position to do that is the governor of the Buckeye State, the Honorable John Kasich. Governor Kasich, welcome back, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you.
JK: Thank you, Hugh. How are you?
HH: I’m terrific. What do you think about Cleveland’s chances now that Las Vegas and Cincinnati are out of the running?
JK: Well, of course, we don’t celebrate the fact that one of our Buckeye cities went out, but we have one in there, and look, I think Ohio’s a great choice. And when you take a look at Ohio, we’ve come back. The formula of Republican conservatism is working. We’re up a quarter of a million jobs, and we’re running surpluses. I think, I don’t know why you wouldn’t go to Ohio. It’s a battleground state, things are always close, and so to me, it makes perfect sense. And the people of Cleveland, they would just go crazy to have the convention there, and they’d make everybody feel great. And you’ve been to that city many times. It’s fantastic. It has rebounded, and it’s good.
HH: Yeah, I was just there two weekends ago after Johnny Football got drafted before the Cavs got the number one pick, and I’m a big lobbyist for Cleveland, because I love the area. But you know the real backdrop is Ohio’s jobs comeback, and that’s a story we want to tell to the whole country, right?
JK: Well, exactly, and that the formula, the formula of driving economic growth through lower taxes and better regulations, and a better educated workforce, and good education combined, by the way, with another message that I think is equally, not equally as important, but critically important, is the idea that when we do better, we help people who live in the shadows and often can’t help themselves. And the reason why I say not equally important is if we don’t have economic strength, the ability to help people who can’t help themselves is not as strong as when we are strong. So as we’ve gotten stronger, we’ve been able to devote more resources to helping people get their lives back and getting back on track. I think when you look at Ohio, also, we now have a much more diversified economy. It’s manufacturing, agriculture, health care, financial services, energy, I mean, we can display it all, because Ohio is a microcosm of America. So why not bring it here? You know, the idea makes total sense.
HH: That’s the best case that can be made. Now I know that earlier today, you presided at a memorial service in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend. Tomorrow, we devote the entire show to the Semper Fi Fund doing the same thing. And at the backdrop of that, and you made some heartfelt remarks, but the backdrop is this VA scandal. And I went and got a list of all the VA facilities in Ohio, and you know, they go from Zanesville to Youngstown, from Ashtabula to Cincinnati, Dayton, all in between, you’re a former member of Congress, you’re a governor, you know how many vets we have in Ohio. This is an appalling situation, Governor Kasich. And it’s not, you can’t put this on anyone except the VA. It’s their job to take care of these guys.
JK: Yeah, I mean, it’s, the only thing that I can tell you is that the President has to move. He’s got to move with lightning speed to get all this fixed. I mean, today we had a ceremony here. We really honored two people’s families, 27, 25 year old, one killed in Iraq, one killed in Afghanistan. We owe our veterans. Now here in the state, we’re lifting them. You know, one of the things that we’re doing for our returning veterans is, I always like to say, if you can drive a truck from Kabul to Kandahar, Afghanistan, you ought to be able to drive one from Columbus to Cleveland.
JK: So we’re giving them their CDL’s. We are ordering all of our institutions, higher education, community colleges, to give them the kind of certificates they need that reflect the service that they have in the military. That’s the least we can do. And then of course on top of it is to take care of their physical and their psychological needs. So you know, I think the whole country is just outraged by what has happened, and I think everybody’s going to work to try to fix this. And clearly, the President is the one that has to drive this.
HH: Now there’s a contrast here, Governor Kasich. Ohio is on the rebound. It’s got its unemployment down. It’s got job production up. It’s got a diverse economy and some healthy, amazing things going on in schools as well, which we might get to, contrasted with the President is kind of bogged down in the IRS, in the Benghazi issue, now the VA issue. Pete Wehner wrote about epic incompetence today. Did he not have the tools to run this administration when he started? Or is it a sequence of unfortunate events that put him in, I mean, his numbers are down to 40%. They’re hitting Bush era lows.
JK: Well, look, you know, it’s always easy to kick somebody when they’re down. I tend to focus on what we’re doing right, and talk about the formula that made it work for us. So we started, we were $8 billion in the hole. We focused like a laser on jobs. I mean, I think they weren’t focused on that. That’s one lesson to learn. But we redid a lot of government. We improved it, we reformed it, and we eliminated some of the things that we didn’t need anymore. And we were able to go from that $8 billion in the hole, which was an historic high deficit to, you know, now a billion and a half surplus, and we’re going to have another tax cut this year, because our revenues have come in even faster than what we expected, so an additional tax cut, some income tax acceleration, and then an increase in the small business tax. Now that lower taxes, also, makes a significant difference, particularly for small business. And at the same time, we’re business friendly. We want to work with business. We’re not going to give away the story. We’ve got, as you know, we have a shale gas, a fracking operation in Ohio. Now we’ve put regulations on them, but they’re not over-burdensome. So they are there to protect the health and the safety, and frankly to make sure that the industry can survive. When you overregulate, when you have uncertainty, when you do not focus on those critical things that drive, make you an economically viable place, people look the other way. And I think the administration hasn’t been able to do that. There’s too much uncertainty. There’s, you know, Obamacare, what’s going to happen with the debt, what about taxes, they just haven’t been able to get on top of this, Hugh, and we have. And what I try to tell people is take a look what’s happened in our state and some of the other states around where governors have been successful.
HH: So Governor Kasich, we’ve got about two minutes left here, and I know you’ve got to run, but we’ve got this 2014 reelection. You’ve got a double digit lead in the polls over your Democratic opponent, and a lot of people are beginning to say, Karl Rove on this show last Friday was talking about John Kasich as a presidential contender. When will you make a decision if you’re successful in reelection about whether or not you’ll seek the White House?
JK: I don’t even understand that question, Hugh. I’m running for governor of Ohio. I’m going to take care of Ohio.
HH: But after you take care of Ohio, and you win…
JK: Hey, Hugh, Hugh, I’m taking care of Ohio.
JK: Period. End of story.
HH: You’re not going to comment at all? I mean, a lot of people are beginning to say we need someone with the experience that comes with running the state.
JK: Oh, boy, you know, it’s like I used to say. When I was running, when I tried to run for president, I couldn’t get anybody to pay any attention. And now that I’m not doing anything about that and not showing any interest, people are excited. So maybe that tells me something, huh?
HH: All right, well, last question, then, about your reelection campaign. Where do you expect to get attacked on? How are they going to get any traction with the economy perking up and with all the cylinders going in Ohio?
JK: You know, I hate to not answer this question as well, but you know, that’s not for me…I think that first of all, I think that reelections are based on how the incumbent does. No matter who you are, they’re not interested into a challenger. They’re going to make a decision about how you’re doing. And if they think you’re doing a good job, that’s the end of the story. If you’re doing a lousy job, then they’re going to look at a challenger. So I’m very hopeful that people are going to see the improvement in Ohio, and we’ll just move on from there.
HH: And a very last question, you tweeted out before you came on that you were going to be on the show. You use social media. Your team uses social media.
JK: Yup. Oh, yeah.
HH: The practices of electoral politics, do you think Kasich reelection committee is up there with the most modern of the election practices?
JK: Well, we try, and look, I mean, I also have two 14 year old daughters, right? So if we’re not modern, you know, I live with them, so I hear, you know, if I’m not doing very well. You’re the best, man.
HH: John Kasich…
JK: Hugh, come to Ohio. Come visit me in Columbus sometime.
HH: I was there two weeks ago at the Fawcett Center, but I went back to Warren for the draft that night, or I would have given you a call. And you’ve got to love Johnny Football in Cleveland, Governor.
JK: I think it’s just fantastic. There’s so much excitement, and of course, the Cavs now get the number one pick again in the NBA draft, so who knows?
HH: You got any advice on who to pick with number one? Are you a Wiggins guy?
JK: Yeah, I would pick, I would not trade that unless I got Kevin Love. If I got Kevin Love from Minnesota, I might do it. But other than that…
HH: He’d have to be signed, though.
JK: I wouldn’t trade it.
HH: He’d have to be signed to a long term deal. You wouldn’t trade it for one year.
JK: Oh, are you kidding me? Of course.
HH: Okay, just checking, Governor.
JK: Of course.
HH: All right, thank you. Have a great Memorial Day weekend, Governor John Kasich.
End of interview.