Interviews with Gov. Ted Strickland & Challenger John Kasich

Interviews with Gov. Ted Strickland & Challenger John Kasich

By John King, USA - September 7, 2010

KING: The president will be here in Ohio tomorrow, trying to convince Al Quincel and Americans like him coast to coast that he has a plan to turn things around. But new CNN polling out just today shows Americans now give Republicans higher marks when asked which party has the best economic approach.

And in our reporting, I'm telling you we've lost count of how many Democrats complain the Obama White House lacks a consistent coherent economic strategy and message. Well Ohio's Democratic governor, Ted Strickland will find out eight weeks from tonight if he can survive the anti-incumbent tide powered by that sluggish economy.

Also on the road with us this week as we take an up-close look at the key states and races our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash and our senior political analyst Gloria Borger. Governor Strickland, I'll talk to you about your race in particular in a moment, but I want to talk about the big economic picture that you have struggled with here.

The president is going to come here tomorrow and he is going to say just shy of eight weeks before election day, let's try something else, let's have a new $100 billion tax credit. So that a business can build a new factory or hire new workers and get more cash back essentially, more tax credits back. A lot of Democrats are saying why now, Mr. President? Why didn't you try this two weeks ago or two months ago or four months ago? Has this White House let you down in terms of trying to help stir up job growth?

GOV. TED STRICKLAND (D), OHIO: Well, John, the Recovery Act really helped Ohio. I think it's helped America. Tomorrow I'm going to be in Lordstown, Ohio near Youngstown. I will drive off the assembly line, the very first Chevy Cruise being produced at that plant. Hundreds of workers are working there. That plant would not exist today had it not been for what the administration did for the auto industry. And --

KING: But what about more than that? Back in January 2008, the unemployment rate here was below six percent. Now it's at 10.8 percent and I'll talk --

STRICKLAND: That's right --

KING: -- about you specifically (INAUDIBLE). Your polls aren't very good because of that. Should this White House -- if it's got a big sweeping tax cut plan, wouldn't it have been better for the economy, first and foremost, but also for Democrats on the ballot that it came six months ago?

STRICKLAND: Well a lot was done six months ago and as you know, it was done without any Republican support. So, you know, I'm not going to be overly critical of this administration or the president. I think -- I think what he has done and what our Democratic friends in the Congress has done has been of help to us. The recession would have been much deeper than it has been. We are in recovery in Ohio; jobs are being created for the last four months. We have had private sector job growth in Ohio, and I think we're on our way out of this recession, but it's very slow, and I'm candid with the people here in my state. There are no quick fixes to this economy. We've got to do the hard work of rebuilding what happened to us --

KING: I hate to interrupt, but some of your constituents, the people who will decide whether you get four more years don't agree with you. We've all be out talking to people in the state and Gloria went out today and she asked some voters a pretty simple message. Do the Democrats have a consistent economic message? Listen to this.


ALEX KUSKIN, OHIO RESIDENT: In a word, no. No, they don't. Sorry. That's the way I feel about it. I don't think they've had a clear message yet.

AMY LOZIER, BAKERY OWNER: I think it's a little muddled. I don't -- I'm not really hearing from them exactly what they want to do. I think they know. But I think that it's being so cautious not to offend anybody.


KING: Gloria, when you're talking to voters like that, do they blame the president? Do they blame Washington? Do they blame everybody?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: These are Democrats. These are people who identify themselves as sort of loyal Democrats. I think they blame Washington. And I think, you know, I have to ask the governor, does this kind of anti Washington sentiment, anti-Obama really sentiment affect you, because you're a Democrat? How much does that hurt you here?

STRICKLAND: Listen, I think -- I think the people in Ohio and across America are upset with all of us, Washington, Wall Street, local leaders, certainly with me. We need to acknowledge that. And I understand why. They are angry. I'm angry and I'm angry over some of the same things they are angry over. We've been dealt a tough blow. We've been given you know a kick in the gut so to speak --

BORGER: But could they have had a clearer message? Could the White House --



KING: And if you're -- and if you're looking for a clear message from your leaders, from your governor and from your president can it help eight weeks from Election Day? I know many people here in Columbus and Ohio don't read "The New York Times", but if you pick up "The New York Times" today, Peter Orszag, who just left the Obama White House as the budget director at a time when the president and the Democrats are saying we have to let the Bush tax cuts expire for wealthy Americans at the end of the year because of the deficit, Peter Orszag writes this.

"The best approach is a compromise. Extend the tax cuts for two years and then end them all together. Ideally, only the middle-class tax cuts would be continued for now, but getting a deal in Congress may require keeping the high-income tax cuts too, and that would still be worth it."

Does that help for you to have to face these questions? We thought that was litigated.

STRICKLAND: Well listen there are no easy answers, John. And I want the people of Ohio --



STRICKLAND: No. I'm trying to speak the truth here.


STRICKLAND: There are no easy answers and for snake oil salesmen to come along and make promises that can't be fulfilled and to say we're going to do this and it's going to solve all of our problems, that's just simply not the way it is.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Governor, I want to ask you, you were in the House of Representatives in 1994 --


BASH: You got swept out in the Republican wave last time. So you've seen this movie before.


BASH: (INAUDIBLE) How is the sequel? What lessons are you taking seriously from that and how are you applying that to how you're running now?

STRICKLAND: Well I'm trying to take my message directly to the people. Listen, Ohioans and I think Americans, you know we're solid common-sense people. We understand that this recession has been tough and difficult. And -- and we're going to come out of it. We are coming out of it. We have been helped by our friends in Washington. It is slow.

There are still people hurting. People are -- are in some cases really losing hope. And that's what troubles me mostly. Because I do believe that we'll get through this. We're tough people, but it's going to take time. And in the meantime, I'm thankful that we have an extension of unemployment benefits for our unemployed workers. I'm thankful that Medicaid is there for us and that we've got more money to take care of the vulnerable among us. I'm grateful that we've got more money for education, so that at least in Ohio, we've actually increased funding for our K through 12 schools. I have gotten help from Washington -- Ohio and Ohioans have gotten help from Washington. Is it enough? I had hoped the stimulus would be larger than it was, quite frankly. I argued for that.

KING: Let me call a time-out here. The governor is going to stay with us. We're going to talk specifics about his race in a moment. Dana and Gloria will be back with us a little later in the program. As we go to break, though, before we talk more with the governor, let's take a closer look at why this state in Middle America is so critical.


KING: As goes Ohio, so goes the nation. That's what they say in presidential politics and you might be able to say that about this big midterm election year. Cities in the north and in the south, smaller cities, smaller city Columbus in the middle, some suburbs that are key in all of our politics and then some big swath of rural farmland. Ohio has a little bit of everything. Let's compare it to the country as a whole when it comes to the demographics.

The unemployment rate in Ohio right now, as you can see, a little bit above the national average. Per capita income, a bit below the national average. Ohio is a bit more white than the nation as a whole, about the same in African American population, but significantly, Ohio, well below the national average when it comes to the Latino population.

Now what about the economy in the Obama administration? This is why Republicans are so optimistic in Ohio this year, 10.3 percent unemployment, as we noted. Manufacturing jobs down steadily, although bouncing back a little bit from January, still down though during the Obama presidency. Construction jobs just as well, a little bit of a bounce this year.

Still down 12 percent during the Obama presidency. It is that tough economy that has Republicans optimistic. Beginning with the governor's race, Ted Strickland, an incumbent Democratic governor. Republicans believe in these tough economic times their candidate, former Congressman John Kasich, can win for the Republicans in this race very much worth watching and trust me, they are watching this one in the Obama White House.

Also a big Senate race, Republicans hold this seat right now and they need to keep it in Republican hands. Rob Portman, former Bush cabinet member, former member of the House of Representatives, he's the Republican candidate against long-time Democratic state wide office holder Lee Fisher to Democrats heading into the final weeks. It is Republican Rob Portman with the lead.

John Boehner of Ohio is the House Republican leader. He wants to be the next speaker of the House. To get that Republicans need to pick up 39 seats, but to get those 39 they need to get some of them right here in the state of Ohio. Here are three Republican targets in Ohio right now. Steve Driehaus, his district is down in the Cincinnati area. Mary Jo Kilroy, John Boccieri, their districts are more up here up in the central part of the state. If Republicans are to take back the House, they're going to have to make gains in the home state of the man who would be the next speaker, John Boehner of Ohio.



KING: Live pictures there of Ohio's beautiful capital city, Columbus, just across the river from where we are in this plaza. You know if President Obama is watching one race on election night, it might be the re-election campaign of the gentleman still with me, Ohio's Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Why?

Like President Obama, who might run for reelection a couple of years down the road, this is a Democratic chief executive trying to get reelected in tough economic times. And Governor, I want to talk specifically about your race. When I talked to your opponent earlier today and our viewers will see some of John Kasich a bit later in the program. He said sure, there is a national recession, sure there are some things you -- just nothing you can do (INAUDIBLE) but he says that regulations have been too strict under your administration. Taxes have been too high. I want you to listen to John Kasich. He says if he's elected governor, he can actually bring jobs to this state faster than you.


JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. CANDIDATE: Oh, I think we can lead. I mean I've never been in the position where I've doubted the ability to control your own destiny. We can start pulling jobs from other places instead of having jobs leave and let young people stay here rather than leave or our entrepreneurs stay here rather than leave. We can make a huge difference, absolutely. And we can even be a role model for the rest of the country. We create a business-friendly environment things will get significantly better here.


KING: That's your opponent, who says have you created an environment that is not friendly to business.

STRICKLAND: He's just flat out wrong. John, you're flat out wrong. I have reformed a regulatory system with the participation of the business community. I had business leaders come into my office, sit down with me, we've eliminated some 200 or more regulations. We've modified over 3,000 more and quite frankly, many of the business leaders in this capital city have applauded that. We do not have an overregulated state. Not since I've been governor.

KING: I guess the question back then would be then why is the unemployment rate going up? STRICKLAND: Well the unemployment rate went up because of the recession. We went up to 11.1 percent. We're moving slowly down to 10.3 percent. But I didn't cause the recession, John, and Ohio didn't cause the recession. The recession was caused by Wall Street, and who was working on Wall Street during those years when all of those bad decisions were made?

It was John Kasich. John Kasich says that our state has an unfriendly business climate and an onerous tax system for business investment. He's flat-out wrong. We have the best business tax climate in the Midwest, certainly and one of the best in America. He's out of touch with what's happened here in Ohio. I have worked with business leaders, members of the Ohio Business Roundtable and others to -- to embrace a tax reform that was passed before I became governor.

KING: What can a governor do now in this national environment? What more can you do? You are always learning lessons.


KING: Everybody learns lessons --

STRICKLAND: Absolutely.

KING: What would you say to somebody out there watching in our final minute together who says all right I'm torn. I'm undecided between these two guys. What will you do day one of a second term? Another term? Says all right, this is a lesson I've learned. Here is how I'm going to create jobs.

STRICKLAND: Well John, this is not a contest between me and the economy. This is a choice between me and John Kasich. He's an outsourcer, a Wall Streeter. I'm the guy who's been here in Ohio working his heart out for our people.

And I think people understand the effort that I've put forth. What will I do? I'll continue to do what I've done. Invest in education. Invest in growth industries. I'll embrace a competitive tax structure that my Republican opponent put in -- or my Republican predecessor put in place. Ohio is on its way out of this recession.

What we don't need is to go back to the same policies that put us into this recession. John Kasich wants to impose upon Ohio the same kind of values and the same culture that existed on Wall Street that caused this recession. I don't want that to happen to my state. I love this state, and the people in it.

That's why I work hard and honestly for them. John Kasich says things that in my judgment just old, tired, political rhetoric. I'm the guy who's been working day after day after day for the people of my state, and I think they recognize that, and when they look at what he offers, and when they look at what I offer, I'll emerge as the winner in this contest.

KING: Eight weeks from now, that contest will be decided. Governor Strickland, we appreciate your time tonight. And we want to tell our viewers they'll hear from his opponent, John Kasich, a bit later in the program.

You won't be surprised he has very different views, but stay tuned to hear the Republican view as well. Governor, thanks again for your time.

STRICKLAND: Thank you.

(...Commercial Break...)

KING: I love this state -- I love this -- I love this city and I love this city. Very nice, friendly people, number one. Friendly, even though they are going through tough times. It's great to be here because it's such an important state politically. And I will come to Ohio over and over and over again because it's a great place. And you learn a lot about American politics right here in this state.

And on that point, one of the big races this year is the race for governor. There are 37 governor's contests this year and they are critical -- critical -- to determining how they re-draw congressional districts, education policy, tax policy, and how Barack Obama gets a head start or a headwind or maybe something else, Republican opposition in his reelection campaign.

John Kasich is a former congressman, was a deputy of Newt Gingrich when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994. He's the Republican nominee for governor. You heard from the Democratic incumbent at the top of the program. I sat down earlier today with John Kasich, began the conversation by asking him: What would you do differently, sir, to get people jobs?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KING: Put some specifics on the table. In day one or month one, what would be different with Governor Kasich as opposed to a second- term for Governor Strickland?

JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO GOV. CANDIDATE: Well, I mean, the government is going to be modernized and shrunk. The taxes are going to be reduced. The regulations will be -- that get in the way of small business, will be systemically repealed. We are now creating an independent operation called Jobs Ohio, which is going to take private-sector people working aggressively to work with businesspeople to help them or to remove barriers, or to help them find financing and you're going to have a governor that actually understand business, will talk the language of business.

KING: If you listen to your opponents, he says that all sounds good, but your guy who's buddies are in Wall Street and your buddies are the other extreme right of the Republican Party.

KASICH: This guy -- think about this -- this guy is running for re-election, and he spent every minute of his campaign trashing me. I mean, wouldn't you think that a guy running for re-election would have something good to say about himself? And let's deal with Lehman for a second. I was one of 700 managing directors in a 30,000-person company. That's like blaming a car dealer here in town for the collapse of G.M. It's just desperation and designed to really shift attention away from what's happening in Ohio. You know, it's ridiculous to be running for re-election and have nothing good to say about yourself.

KING: A governor also has some impact in education policy. What's different from -- between John Kasich and Ted Strickland when it comes to schools?

KASICH: I'll give you an example. Ohio was 47th in the country in dollars in the classroom, but we're ninth in overhead. Now, how are you going to teach some kid how to learn and empower a teacher if you're not putting the dollars in the classroom? So, that would be the most important thing that we would start with and also asking the districts to tell us what unfunded mandates they'd like to repeal.

KING: Let me play you back in closing. We first met a long time ago when the Republican brand had a bit of a resurgence. 1994 election, Republicans take control of Congress, they work with a Democratic president. We can go back and criticize those times, but you could say, well, for reform of balanced budget, there were some good things that happened.

Right now, I think you'd agree, even though it is the Democrats who are in power and it's a tough year for them, the Republican brand isn't exactly beautiful at the moment. What would you do to fix it?

KASICH: Look, we won in '94. I believe part of why we won in '94 is connected to '93 when we were offering proposals and ideas. I think in '94, the Contract with America spelled out a whole number of things that really got the American people pretty pumped up -- welfare reform, balancing budget, cutting taxes for families, reducing taxes on risk-taking.

I think after the turn of the century and after 2000, Republicans didn't have ideas. They started -- they started just -- you couldn't tell what they were for. It was just make the trains run on time. No ideas, no philosophy and they lost. They were punished.

What can really resurrect the brand for Republicans -- and look, I'm not running for this to be a Republican. I mean, the party is my vehicle, never been my master. But a political party that can offer ideas creates energy and when you create energy, you create excitement.

What the Republicans better realizes is if they do have these sweeping victories, they better be prepared to lead with their ideas, because if they are not, there's going to be some boiling oil and tar outside the building where they are, and the public will take it out on them, just like they've taken it out on Obama, who's overpromised and under-delivered. Republicans got to be prepared to move.


KING: The Republican candidate for governor, John Kasich, there. Again, that's the headline on the big election here eight weeks from tonight.


John King, USA

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