Sounding a favorite theme, the governor told audiences in Toledo, Elyria, Cleveland, and Euclid that Mr. Kasich landed a lucrative job with the former Lehman Brothers investment firm in 2001 just after introducing in Congress a bill to partially privatize Social Security.
"Now my friends, who was it that wanted to privatize Social Security more than anybody else? Wall Street!" Mr. Strickland told volunteers in the Weber Block Building in East Toledo.
"They wanted to get their hands on those resources. Can you imagine what would have happened if we had privatized Social Security when the stock market went off the cliff after Sept. 5, 2008, when Lehman Brothers, John Kasich's employer, went bankrupt?" the governor said.
"Wouldn't have been no Social Security," came back the reply from someone in the audience.
Mr. Strickland, 69, nearing the end of his first term as governor, is fighting hard to gain voter approval for a second term.
Rather than defend himself against the attacks leveled by Mr. Kasich - of a government too slow to compete for jobs with other states, of raising taxes by repealing the fifth year of a five-year income tax cut, and of spending too much education money in administration and overhead, Mr. Strickland stays on the attack.
Mr. Kasich, 58, bit back Monday and over the weekend, charging that Mr. Strickland is running on fear while he, Mr. Kasich, is running on hope.
JETTA FRASER / TOLEDO BLADE Enlarge
"He's adopting Barack Obama's campaign strategy," Mr. Strickland commented Monday in Toledo. "I'm not afraid of John Kasich."
Mr. Strickland Monday said his own polling shows him leading by "more than 3 points," an increase over the 1 to 3 points he was claiming over the weekend.
His speeches to small groups of volunteers in Democratic Party call centers are designed to encourage volunteers and arm them with talking points as they make, in some cases, hundreds of telephone calls a day to potential pro-Strickland voters.
In Toledo, Mr. Strickland took his turn at the telephone, reaching two voters, and - judging from his side of the conversation - winning their votes.
"Your vote means a lot to me," he tells a woman in Franklin County. "After you help me win this election, I'll do my very best not to disappoint you."
Among those he greeted at the East Toledo event was his first cousin, Kathleen Salyers, 59, who lives on Sherbrooke Road in Toledo, having moved here 10 years ago from Portsmouth, Ohio, not far from where Mr. Strickland grew up.
"We have the same grandmother and I spent a lot of time out in the country with my grandmother. When he talks about the outhouse, having to go out in wintertime to the outhouse, and those kinds of things, I know that everything he's saying is the truth," Ms. Salyers said.
Mr. Strickland delights his audiences with examples of Mr. Kasich's policy proposals that he says would move Ohio backward.
He said Mr. Kasich's effort to privatize Social Security is updated in his plan to privatize the Department of Development, which was to be given over to a nonprofit board whose ideas for investing the Third Frontier development fund would be decided by Mr. Kasich.
"He says there would be no cap on how much they would be paid. Starting to sound a little bit like Wall Street, isn't he?" Mr. Strickland said.
"That's Wall Street thinking and Wall Street behavior and that's the kind of behavior that brought on this recession," Mr. Strickland said.
He said Mr. Kasich's statement that he would reject the $400 million that the Strickland administration has landed in federal stimulus funds to develop passenger rail between Cincinnati and Cleveland is "irresponsible."
"There's not a chance in 500,000 that that money would come back to Ohio," Mr. Strickland said to his audience in Elyria.
Among the crowd in Toledo was Russ Kamin, 57, a home health care aide and insurance agent, who served as kind of an amen chorus for the governor.
When Mr. Strickland alluded to Mr. Kasich's exploratory run for the presidency in 1991 as "brief, for the good of the country," Mr. Kamin chimed in, "not brief enough."
"I believe in what Ted stands for," Mr. Kamin said, noting that both of their fathers were steel workers. "He's a man of the heart. He doesn't talk trash."
The governor was buttonholed by Toledoan Latesha Cooper-Benton, 37, an unemployed massage therapist who was making calls in the Democratic call center. She wanted to know what he was doing to create jobs.
Mr. Strickland described his investments in solar and wind energy and the intermodal rail project in North Baltimore.
"The hole was really deep but we're digging out of it," Mr. Strickland said.
Ms. Cooper-Benton, who said she has a teenage son, said people are suffering.
"I just need to know what he's doing versus what John Kasich is doing wrong," Ms. Cooper-Benton said.
Before leaving the Weber Block Building, Mr. Strickland bought a cup of coffee and a pastry at Michael's Caf and Bakery.
State Rep. Matt Lundy (D., Elyria) said Elyria, in Lorain County, is like Toledo - dependent on the auto industry.
He said Mr. Strickland's support of a standard requiring 25 percent of energy generated in the state to come from renewable energy and advanced sources is paying off, as manufacturers shift to making parts for wind and solar generation.
"He sees the focus on playing to our strengths with manufacturing and the transition to manufacturing for the renewable energy field," Mr. Lundy said.
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