Ohio voters face a daunting choice on Nov. 2: Who should lead this recession-battered state for the next four years?
Incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland is a decent and honorable son of Appalachian Ohio who promises a steady, if unspectacular, course through the rough seas ahead. He is clearly the safe bet, unlikely to either make a big mistake or bring about big change.
His Republican challenger, John Kasich, is a former congressman from suburban Columbus given to Reagan-style optimism and bold, sometimes questionable, ideas. He is just as clearly the wild card, eager to shake up the status quo and even challenge his own party, but also capable of talking himself right off a cliff.
The easy option would be to endorse Strickland, a dutiful caretaker steeped in public policy minutiae. At least you know what you'd get. But therein lies the problem.
Strickland, 69, suffers from limited imagination and political timidity; at times, he seems almost shellshocked by the loss of 400,000 jobs on his watch. He told The Toledo Blade last week that his administration should have moved faster to prevent Ohio businesses from fleeing to other states. He has consistently mistaken talk for action, produced budgets held together with bubble gum and twine and allowed his team to adopt a siege mentality. He stumbled badly on gambling, treated Ohio's cities as stepchildren and, in a shameful kowtow to his union allies, waged war on effective charter schools.
Then I moved on to the Dispatch where I was certain to read the impending Strickland endorsement only read this.........
As Ohio copes with economic stagnation, unemployment of 10.1 percent and a looming $8 billion shortfall in the state budget, it needs a resolute leader in the governor's office. While Gov. Ted Strickland is admirable in many respects, leadership and executive ability have not been his strong suits. Therefore, The Dispatch endorses Republican John Kasich for governor.
Ohio's budget is facing a crisis unlike any in memory. A deficit of such magnitude speaks to the failure of Strickland even to begin the process of putting Ohio on a sustainable fiscal basis. He should have begun two years ago to make the fundamental structural changes needed to bring the state's spending into line with its income. Instead, he relied on federal handouts and other one-time money to put off the day of reckoning. Now that day is at hand, and he still has given voters no clue as to how he would bridge the budget gap.
Though Kasich, also, has not offered a detailed plan, he points to his nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he rose to be chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, as proof that he has the experience to deal with tough budget issues. That experience will be invaluable.
Just as important though, Ohio needs a leader who can inspire hope and not simply cope. Ohio has suffered several decades of economic decline and then was knocked flat by the recent recession. The problem is not that the state lacks the talent and know-how to recoup, but that it is adrift and hobbled by uncertainty.
Then the Cincinnati Enquirer rolled out this endorsement of Kasich........
While the lead held by GOP gubernatorial candidate John Kasich has dwindled into a virtual tie with incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, the latest poll also reveals perceptions among Ohio voters that we find telling.
According to the new Ohio Newspaper Poll being released Sunday, 55 percent of Ohioans believe Strickland "will raise my taxes," while 27 percent think Kasich will. And by a 10-point margin, 49 percent to 39 percent, more Ohioans think Kasich would "bring needed change to Ohio."
That in part sums up why we continue to believe John Kasich is Ohioans' better choice for governor this year. He is the clear agent for change, particularly change that can shake Ohio's economy out of the doldrums and make its government more responsive for the future.
Strickland represents a status quo that we cannot continue to accept, and he offers more of the same - treading-water solutions restricted by old relationships and power structures. We urge Ohio voters to look forward by supporting John Kasich for governor.
I'm not a believer that people should follow endorsements of candidates. But for the three largest newspapers in Ohio (two of which are notoriously liberal) to endorse Kasich is probably a big deal.