CINCINNATI - A confident-sounding John Kasich made a surprise stop at a Cincinnati Tea Party rally Saturday, talking as if he were already governor.
"I love the Tea Party," the former congressman, Fox News show host, and regional Lehman Brothers manager told a crowd of about 300 gathered at a park along the Ohio River.
"If they start to try to ruin the program for economic growth in this state, we're going to march, aren't we?" Mr. Kasich asked the crowd. "Failure is not an option … Can I count on you to come to Columbus?"
While introducing the Republican candidate, conservative radio talk show host Bill Cunningham referred to "Barack Hussein Obama," using the President's full name, as he often does on his show.
But then he took it a step further, calling the Democratic incumbent governor "Ted Hussein Strickland."
Mr. Kasich, who has referred to Mr. Obama and Mr. Strickland as "twins" on the campaign stump, said later that he didn't hear the statement and declined to comment on it.
Mr. Kasich traveled through Republican-rich southwest Ohio in Hamilton, Butler, and Warren counties Saturday.
A large turnout in this corner of the state has traditionally been as important to Republicans as Democratic turnout is for that party in Cuyahoga County in northeast Ohio.
He pointed to campaign volunteers in Lebanon who claim to have made 184,429 calls on his behalf, as well as to the Tea Party as reasons for why he expects to win Tuesday.
"It's all together," he said. "It's not one or the other. It's all combined. … It'll be all these folks who are just saying I don't like what's going on, frankly, with either party.
"The fact that I've been out [of politics] for 10 years and had a record has been helpful because I've had credibility with them."
Much of the attention at the Tea Party rally was on Mr. Obama, who is to rally with Mr. Strickland today in Cleveland.
Republicans have made it clear that they want to make Ohio in 2010 the "Barack Obama firewall" for 2012, a nod to the battleground state's influence in picking presidents.
"There's a lot of people who don't like Obama, and they see Strickland and Obama as being very similar," Mr. Kasich said later in Lebanon. "They're on the same stage. He campaigns for him constantly. They have the same philosophy.
"There isn't any question that people who are upset with what Obama's done are also upset with what Strickland's done.
"It's twins as a I call them," he said. "For '12, we have to get our job done here between '10 and '12. When we get these things done that a lot of people say we can't get done, we're going to have a very big voice in 2012."
Rallying for Mr. Strickland in Ohio, former President Bill Clinton argued that the Tea Party should support the incumbent governor, saying he has lowered taxes and reduced the size of government in line with the Tea Party's agenda.
"I was studying my little briefing on the way over here, and I told Ted I can't figure out why the Tea Party doesn't endorse you," Mr. Clinton said in Boardman near Youngstown.
Mr. Kasich laughed when informed of the comments.
"Well then they didn't tell Clinton what Strickland has done because Strickland has raised taxes and increased government," he said. "He just wasn't very well informed."
The dispute over taxes stems from last year's decision by Mr. Strickland and the General Assembly to shelve an already promised 4.2 percent personal income tax cut, worth about $400 million a year, to patch a hole in the state budget. It was to be the last installment of a total 21 percent cut over five years.
Republicans have called changing the rate already written into state law a tax hike, while Democrats have called it a tax freeze because the rate stayed the same in 2009 as it had been in 2008.
In the city of Hamilton, Mr. Kasich told supporters that the momentum is on his side. He sounded combative in talking about how he will get things done after taking office.
"We can move the needle quickly," he said. "I can't wait to get my hands on the wheel."
Mr. Kasich repeated his pledge to cut taxes and increase the efficiency of government. He said there is a lot of "low-hanging fruit" where change can be made quickly.
"Decisions have been put off for years because politicians were afraid to take a position," he said. "My view is you get elected and you move. You get things done. We've got to get the government smaller and we've got to cut the taxes. … It will be done in this first budget. It's going to happen."
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A confident-sounding John Kasich made a surprise stop at a Cincinnati Tea Party rally Saturday, talking as if he were already governor.