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Kasich wins campaign cash race. Can he turn cash into votes in 2014?

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If the Ohio campaign fundraising totals released last week for governor for the last half of 2013 are predictors of November's midterm winners and losers, Gov. John Kasich, who raised more than twice as much as his Democratic challenger and sits atop a treasury brimming with 80 more cash, may already be thinking about the future, where his name routinely surfaces as an outlier candidate in the 2016 GOP presidential sweepstakes.

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Yet while Team Kasich occupies the undisputed high ground to win a second term in 10 months, 2014 may not be a cake walk reelection for the often combative and gaffe prone Reagan relic, who has touted Ohio's job recovery as a miracle while others say its mostly magic at best or mirage at worst.

Included on the long list of Republicans who believe they can defeat the widely expected Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, in a nationwide vote, Gov. Kasich has told Ohio voters whether if they elect him again he'll serve them as a full-time governor or spend two years trying to leverage himself back into the political major leagues headquartered in Washington.

Congressman John Kasich spent 18 years in the House of Representatives, some of them in the minority but some in the majority. Under former Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, the lanky mop-topped Pennsylvanian who turns 62 next month, was promoted to chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee. Based on those year, he routinely claims credit for balancing federal budgets in President Clinton's second term.

Gov. Kasich never mentions that he wouldn't have had a surplus of funds to balance those budgets had his vote against Clinton's budget in 1993 that contained tax increases in it been the majority vote at the time. Fortunately for Congressman Kasich, who remains a devoted disciple of fellow GOP Congressman Jack Kemp and still espouses his theory of supply side economics, his vote against the Clinton budget, the passage of which set the table for a decade of peace, prosperity and job growth, has never come back to haunt him as he's never had to account for it.

Campaign filing reports from last week show Gov. Kasich hauled in $3.9 million in the last half of 2013 and enjoys a cash mountain of $7.9 million. By comparison, Ed FitzGerald, the likely challenger to the first-term governor, raised $1.6 million in the final six months of 2013 and first month of 2014. In the first six months of last year, FitzGerald, a former FBI special agent and small town mayor, raised $600,000, not a spectacular sum considering a significant portion of it and his second-half take originated with the Ohio Democratic Party [ODP], which has already endorsed him as its standard bearer this year.

"Gov. Kasich is leading Ohio’s comeback, and this report is a strong indication that he will have the support and resources to keep our state moving forward for another four years," Kasich campaign director Matt Carle said in a news release. Gov. Kasich raised $4.5 million in the second half of 2013 which includes in-kind contributions and other income and $3.8 in cash donations. Kasich has raised more than $9.1 million since taking office in 2011.

"Thanks to the contributions of every day Ohioans, we are on track to unseat an incumbent governor who has sacrificed our middle class to line the pockets of his Wall Street buddies," FitzGerald campaign manager Nick Buis said in an emailed statement. "The people of Ohio are making it clear that their voices won't be silenced by excessive campaign checks from the one percent who have benefited from Governor Kasich's economic 'miracle.'"

On Monday, Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County's first elected Executive following a shakeup and reconfiguration of county government, announced two additions to his staff. Campaign veteran Daniel McElhatton will serve as Communications Director, and Lauren Hitt, most recently of Bill de Blasio's successful New York City mayoral campaign, will serve as Press Secretary.

Gov. Kasich is obviously pleased with his fundraising prowess and will have no money problems this year as deep pocketed Republicans will toss their money into Ohio, a perennial presidential battleground state that over the last two presidential election cycles has been won by a Democrat, Barack Obama.

Kasich backed Mitt Romney last year, but his coattails were non-existent for the former Massachusetts governor and richest candidate to ever run for the U.S. presidency. On the stump, Gov. Kasich kept saying that "Romney gets it" but what he got was about five million fewer votes nationwide than President Obama, who Republicans, including Kasich, thought would win.

Kasich on the edge

Some election watchers talk about Gov. Kasich's chances of being a contender in 2016, but he has to win Ohio for those dreams to come true.

Larry Sabato, a respected national political watcher who runs "Crystal Ball" from The University of Virginia Center for Politics, assesses Kasich as the "likely" winner this year. A problem for Gov. Kasich is that after three years of governing with a friendly Republican legislature at his disposal and a major legacy newspaper like the Columbus Dispatch in his corner no matter what, he's still a "likely" winner. Among Sabato's criticism of Kasich is that the former Lehman Brothers Wall Street banker has "an abrasive personality."

Stuart Rothenberg, another nationally respected political pundit, isn't as confident about Kasich's chances as Sabato. For Rothenberg, he rates the Ohio race this year as a "Toss Up/Tilt Republican."

Absolutely key to a FitzGerald win is the presence of third-party candidate, Charlie Earl of the Libertarian Party, who reliable polling shows could snag as much as six percent of the vote. Given Gov. Kasich only won only 23.5 percent of registgered voters in a low turnout vote in 2010, Earl taking a handful of percentage points out of Kasich's voter base could leave FitzGerald, a little known candidate outside northeast Ohio, the winner. Bill Clinton won his first term in 1992 when Ross Perot got 20 percent of the national vote, leaving the former Arkansas Governor with little more than 40 percent of the nation vote, which was enough to move him and his wife Hillary into the White House.

So even though Gov. Kasich will continue to win the game of campaign contributions, the mood of state voters could work against him as his performance in job creation has stalled, as he said is happening on an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press.

SB 5, women's issues key to 2014

Further complicating Kasich's drive to victory would be a ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court that his signature creation, JobsOhio, a private nonprofit exempt for public records laws, can be sued as unconstitutional. Gov. Kasich has privatized Ohio's formerly pubic development department, by funding it with profits from liquor sales, that has now been bonded out for decades to the tune of billions of dollars.

Additional complications for Kasich come in the former of his out of tune approval of harsh laws regarding women's health issues, especially access to legal abortion. It was reported Monday that abortions are now at their lowest rate since the passage of Roe v Wade in1973.

Even though Gov. Kasich received unquestioned support from a GOP legislature that came in with him in 2010, a collective bargaining bill that would have hit public sector union workers very hard was soundly defeated in 2011 by a nearly 2-1 margin, when a broad coalition of unions, progressive, minorities and women turned out at the polls to nullify SB 5 in a referendum vote.

For the above reasons and more, Kasich cannot count on Ohio going sold red this year. As strong as his fundraising will be, if past polling showing him in a close race with FitzGerald, with Earl in the mix, continues, what will give him a second term and the luxury of running for president a second time will be votes not dollars.

Republicans turned out a high percentage of their base voters for Romney in 2012. Democrats, on the other hand, also turned out a record high number of voters, but unlike Republicans, they still have many more voters they need to come to the polls in November.

In 2010, then citizen Kasich won by only 77,127 votes statewide. If Democrats can make this year's election look more like 2012 than 2010, their odds of FitzGerald becoming state CEO increase. If Earl can deliver with a vigorous campaign that will take shots at both Kasich and FitzGerald, the votes he takes away from Kasich only help Democrats.

The news article Kasich wins campaign cash race. Can he turn cash into votes in 2014? appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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