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Haley Barbour, Gov. John Kasich headline ORP State Dinner in Columbus

Gov. John Kasich, from his campaign website.
Gov. John Kasich, from his campaign website.

The 2014 Ohio Republican Party [ORP] State Dinner, held at the Columbus Renaissance Hotel Saturday, was sold out, as state officials including Gov. John Kasich participated in the state party's largest annual fundraiser, where former Governor Haley Barbour roused the crowd.

"Ohio was Broken." That was the name of the brochure that folded out to the shape of Ohio that contained the now familiar talking points of Gov. Kasich's narrative of being a comeback governor.
John Michael Spinelli

State Treasurer Josh Mandel echoed the contents of the fold-out brochure placed on every seat called "Ohio was Broken," telling the 730-paid attendees that when John Kasich was elected governor in 2010, the state was in shambles. ORP Chairman Matt Borges pumped up expectations for a great year. "November is going to be great, and the operation and organization will be one everyone can be proud of," he said.

Forks and knives clanked during a short video from Secretary of State Jon Husted, who touted how easy it is to vote rather than how scary it is, a push back on Democrats claims that Republicans have made it harder to vote, especially for minorities, elders and students, by passing legislation that narrowed rather than expanded voter rules.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor said her reason to be at the dinner tonight was because of her two grown sons and their futures. "We need to tell people Ohio was broken, people forgot how broken the state was, but it's doing better now," she said, adding that Ohio needs to finish what the Kasich-Taylor team started nearly four-years ago. Taylor, a former state representative and auditor, then introduced Ohio's junior U.S. Senator Rob Portman, from Cincinnati, whose resume including working in the White House under both Bush presidents thought would make him Mitt Romney's ticketmate selection in 2012. Portman and Taylor expressed the now accepted conclusion among the Obamacontras that the nation's new policy to manage health care, known widely as Obamacare, doesn't work for the country or Ohio. "Change the Senate majority, not your doctor," Portman said to applause. Republicans are acting more like a family again, he said as he introduced Haley Barbour, who he credited for being a leader behind the 1990s Contract for America, the document that framed GOP positions at the time such that Republicans became the majority party in the House in 1994. When the GOP took over, that change elevated Ohio Congressman John Kasich to a larger role, Chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee.

Portman introduced Gov. Kasich as "Johnny delivers" because he balanced a budget without raising taxes but cutting them. Kasich talked about how good a job Matt Borges has done for the party. Kasich told a story about a conversation he had while exercising at the Ohio State Patrol Academy about how thrilled he is to be able to give people a chance to live up to their potential, a theme he has repeated endlessly that leads into reflections on his faith in a higher power, which has become his way of politicking about on his compassion for those, as he says, "who live in the shadows." He said this statewide ticket is not about an election but about a movement the country is watching.

Gov. Kasich said Haley Barbour was the quarterback, the orchestra leader of the day. "We made history and we created a model." How does Ohio fit into the country? Barbour explained it, saying this year is important now because what happens in 2014 will impact what happens in 2016. Obama, Barbour said, shows that "bad policy results in bad results." Barbour said 29 GOP governors are running for election and 20 of them are running on their record, like Gov. Kasich. "The right kind of leadership puts the right kind of policies that lead to the right kind of results," he said.

Democrats sent out a preemptive strike email earlier in the day titled "Where Haley Barbour Goes, Controversy Follows ... Tonight It is Ohio's Turn." The headlines they sent along included gems like "Barbour bound by his state's past; The Mississippi governor has much to offer in a possible 2012 bid, but he can't shake the racial history" or "Barbour sees no baggage on race issues" or "Haley Barbour won’t denounce KKK leader license plate."

He said the liberal media wants to drive a wedge between the Republican Party. "We have to not allow them not to do that. Tell the truth," he said. Alluding to President Ronald Reagan, the revered Republican Barbour worked for as political director, said, "A friend that agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend, not a 20 percent traitor." The comment was made as Barbour tried to explain the sometimes strange relationship between establishment Republicans like him and Gov. Kasich and Tea Party activists who often chaffe establishment thinking.

America in the modern era, he said, has never been as disrespected as today. "Our allies don't respect us and our enemies don't fear us," he said. He reminded the party's Tea Party wing that "purity is the enemy of victory," and victory by winning elections is the purpose of a political party. When that happens, he said, values can be translated into policies that produce the results they want.

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