CLEVELAND, OHIO— Slovenians “vote blood, not party,” according to outgoing Ohio Sen. George Voinovich (R), who campaigned this week with gubernatorial candidate John Kasich. How is that relevant? Well, almost 25% of Ohioans come from German descent, and the rest are a mix of mostly European nationality.
“There aren’t too many Republicans that have “-itches” at the end of their name,” said Voinovitch, referencing himself and Kasich, before tucking into family-style plates of fried meats and green salad at Sterle’s Slovenian Country House in Cleveland. Voinovich played up the ethnic card as one more reason why Kasich, a nine-term Congressman from the Columbus area, deserves the governorship.
“My mother was Croatian, and my father, he was Czech — we think. But it’s one of those deals. His father came over, and tried to find a birth certificate,” said Kasich, implying that the document had been lost in transition. During Kasich’s childhood, however, those ethnicities were largely abandoned in favor of becoming Americanized, he said.
“I think about those people I grew up with. I think about the ethnics. The love of God, respect the elders. And that’s what I think about when I try to do anything,” said Kasich.
Kasich’s father was a postal worker, but Kasich has quickly abandoned that economic class, climbing the career ladder as a Fox News host and national politician before joining Lehman Brothers on Wall Street. His political life has been just as glamorous, with the current campaign costing tens of millions including outside interest groups. That career ladder was the first thing to be used against him when the campaigning got hot, however.
“They like to depict [Kasich] as someone who has a silver spoon in his mouth, but the fact of the matter is that he worked hard…and kept workin’, and workin’, and workin’…” said Voinavitch, in a clear reference to the attacks on Kasich for being a “millionaire” Wall Street trader. “
They have some TV ads out there saying he was working with Lehman brothers. Let me tell you something. [Democrat] Ted Strickland couldn’t get a job working for Lehman brothers,” said Voinovitch. “I don’t look at that as a negative.”
Kasich is downplaying the stereotype as well — this time, by spinning tearjerker stories about his parent’s untimely deaths in a car accident in the late eighties, and their ethnic work habits. Unfortunately, the image pushed forward by Strickland on the campaign trail has been anything but that of an humble worker-bee; the Wall-street image has been highlighted again and again.
Kasich has more cards to play than simply one of mismatched reputation. He has jumped on Strickland for his lame-duck 3-year governorship, during which Kasich claims Strickland did precisely nothing.
“In the last four years, there are 41 other states where the environment was better for job creation. [Ohio] is in the bottom ten. We need to be in the top ten,” said Kasich, in an interview.
“We’re the seventh highest-taxed state in the country, and I’ve been talking since May about the need to reduce the size and make government more efficient and effective, and to reduce the tax burden,” said Kasich. “We’ve raised taxes in the middle of a recession, and that doesn’t work.”
The latest poll has Kasich up by ten points, which Strickland called “irresponsible, inaccurate and completely removed from the reality.” It’s true that the lead is less than the lead he had a few months ago, when Kasich seemed to be steamrolling Strickland with one of the eighteen-wheelers you see on the Ohio turnpike. But it’s still enough to give the Republican a hefty dose of confidence going into a race that many analysts still rank as a toss-up.
“We need to limit the size of the government, reduce taxes, implement regulatory reform, workers comp reform. All these things are needed so that businesses can make money,” said Kasich.
It’s also what Kasich needs to do to win over the vote.