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CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — John Kasich has looked in restaurants, party headquarters, coffee shops, and businesses across Ohio, but Friday night the GOP gubernatorial candidate mined the pumpkin crowd in search of votes.
Mr. Kasich continued his tour of rural Ohio with a stop at the Circleville Pumpkin Show south of Columbus. Still in his white shirt, dark pants, and a dark jacket, he seemed a bit out of place with the jeans and flannel on the packed streets, but he worked the crowd, shaking hands, and posing for pictures.
The campaigning didn't end even when he used his finger to write his last name into what's billed as “the world's largest pumpkin pie” at Lindsey's Bakery in downtown Centerville.
“Got to get the ballot name on there,” he said.
Unlike many of the stops he has made over the last few days before rooms of people who were already in his camp, this event meant Mr. Kasich could run into people who support his Democratic incumbent, Gov. Ted Strickland. In most cases, however, he waited for people who recognized him to approach.
“What I have to battle a lot against is the opposition trying to fill them with fear, trying to scare them,” Mr. Kasich said between handshakes. “It's union stuff: ‘You're going to lose your job and all that stuff.'”
Roger and Sandra Minton attended the pumpkin show. He's a Democrat. She's a Republican. Both plan to vote for Mr. Kasich.
“I'm a real Democrat, one of the old ones when they were true Democrats,” Mr. Minton said. “I'm very conservative. I don't like anything that's going on now. Strickland hasn't done one thing for us. The only thing I like about him is the Second Amendment. He got an A-plus from the [National Rifle Association].”
On the campaign trail, Mr. Kasich repeatedly tells the crowd that he is a gun owner, going as far as to recommend that those in the audience not try to break into his home. The NRA, however, has endorsed Mr. Strickland, remembering Mr. Kasich's vote as a congressman in favor of President Bill Clinton's ban on assault weapons.
Forrest Westfall of Pickerington is a loyal Republican and is firmly in Mr. Kasich's camp.
“I think Kasich will be better for job development in Ohio,” he said. “The Republican platform overall is better for jobs. Obviously, Strickland has lost quite a few on his watch.”
Kaitlyn, a 21-year-old Ohio State University student who declined to provide her last name, watched inside the bakery as Mr. Kasich wrote his name into the giant pumpkin pie.
“Kasich talked to my class, and I really didn't like what he had to say about some of the things he did in Congress,” she said. “He talked about his experiences, and it didn't seem like he liked his job.”
She was happy with the two-year tuition freeze at public colleges that occurred on Mr. Strickland's watch.
“I think he's done a good job with education,” she said. “If you want to talk about jobs, I don't think he could have changed much with how the economy turned out. We are a manufacturing state, and the economy sucks. It was going to happen anyway.”
Mr. Kasich will continue working GOP strongholds today in central and western Ohio and will launch the homestretch of his campaign tomorrow with a hometown send-off in Westerville, where he officially announced his candidacy at a rally in June, 2009.
He'll then join the rest of the Republican state ticket for a bus tour that will take him to, among other places, Toledo and Lima on Tuesday and Port Clinton on Wednesday.
Along the way, he'll get the help of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and three people often mentioned as possible presidential contenders for 2012 — former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.