COLUMBUS — After months of visiting early presidential primary states, Gov. John Kasich made his bid for the presidency official Tuesday.
In announcing his candidacy, Kasich, became the 16th major contender in a crowded GOP primary field.
“I am here to ask for your prayers, your support and your efforts, because I have decided to run for president of the United States,” Kasich told the crowd of about 2,000 at his announcement at Ohio State University in Columbus.
In a speech devoid of attacks on President Barack Obama or likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Kasich made a case for the presidency based on his experience in both federal and state government and the private sector.
“I believe I do have the skills, and I have the experience,” he said, touting his role in reducing wasteful spending at the Pentagon and achieving a balanced federal budget in 1997 during his tenure in Congress.
He vowed to push for a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget if elected.
He also touched on his success as governor, saying he took over a state government with virtually no money in the rainy day fund and turned it into a surplus of about $800 million, all while cutting state income taxes by $5 billion.
“We’re going to take the lessons of the heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C.,” he said.
But for dozens of protesters who stood along High Street during the announcement, the idea of Kasich taking policies nationwide was not a comforting thought.
Karen Linch, a teacher from Wooster, said the governor’s tax cuts have negatively impacted schools and local governments.
“I want someone to take care of our children, and he’s not doing it,” she said.
Marquise Lovejoy, a recently graduated student who has yet to find a job, said Kasich’s governing philosophy has failed Ohio.
“What Gov. Kasich is promising is something that has not worked in Ohio, so it cannot work in America,” he said.
But inside the Ohio Union, Kasich supporters, who at times broke out in chants of “Run, John, run,” were thrilled with the announcement, including Dave Luby of Westerville.
“I think he’s done a great job with the turnaround of the state and I’m looking forward to him doing the same thing with the country,” he said.
Chase Horchen, a 16-year old from Boardman, said he looked forward to Kasich bringing new ideas to the table.
“I think he’s more concerned with the upcoming generation than his own,” he said.
Kasich, who has expanded Medicare under the Affordable Care Act and supported the implementation of Common Core educational standards, at times sounded much different than many of his fellow Republican contenders.
At several points during his speech, he touched on the need to help those who are often disadvantaged in American society, including the poor, the African-American community and the disabled.
“If we’re not born to serve others, what are we born to do?” he asked, later adding, “The Lord will record what you’ve done for another in the book of life.”
Kasich channeled former president and conservative icon Ronald Reagan to close his speech.
“The light of a city on a hill cannot be hidden. America is that city and you are the light,” he said.
The speech comes 16 years to the month after Kasich dropped out of the 2000 Republican primary, and recent polls have shown him lagging behind most of the other candidates in the 2016 field.
Kasich said his entire career has been built on overcoming obstacles.
“All my life people have told me you can’t do something,” he said.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.