Applaud John Kasich for this much: Of all the speakers on the opening evening of the Republican National Convention, the Ohio governor proved the most positive, his usual energy and enthusiasm pouring forth. More, he made the better case for Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee, an area in which others, including Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor and keynote speaker, fell short.
That’s not to say Kasich put aside self-promotion. The governor essentially made the argument that Romney would do well to repeat what he has done in Ohio. He replayed familiar talking points about his accomplishments, about “restoring confidence. … setting people free.” He has some achievements and promising initiatives. He also told more than a few whoppers.
To be sure, the state has jumped forward in job creation, reaching the fourth highest yearly increase in July. Yet as the number-crunchers point out, while the state added 11,000 jobs last month, it also saw its labor force decline by 24,000. In other words, many people gave up the search for work. In June, 18,000 took the same path.
The governor touts the decline in the state unemployment rate. The trend is a good thing, yet the story isn’t exactly as he relays. The rate dropped steadily in the year before he took office.
To hear Kasich tell it, he rescued the state by balancing the budget, cutting taxes, erasing regulations and ordering priorities. Consider the priority that suffered in making ends meet, the governor relying heavily on spending reductions for public schools. He didn’t end “tax, spend and duck,” as he boasts. State lawmakers already had cut income taxes. State spending in the 2000s declined by 25 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.
His predecessor, Ted Strickland, joined lawmakers from both parties in making tough choices during the harsh recession.
Regulatory reform remains an early work in progress. The end of the estate tax wasn’t part of his proposed budget. The governor rightly wants seniors to reside in their homes rather than nursing facilities. Yet this didn’t begin with his arrival, as he invited the convention audience to think. If anything, the pace has slowed on his watch. That may involve soon-to-arrive changes to accelerate gains in the years ahead. Such details rarely have a place when the governor tells his Ohio story.