John Kasich’s presidential campaign announced its Ohio leadership team in a conference call with state Republicans Tuesday evening. It’s a show of force as other candidates, particularly Jeb Bush, have started to try to make inroads in the state.
Lieutenant governor Mary Taylor, state-senate president Keith Faber, attorney general Mike DeWine, and state auditor Dave Yost will serve as campaign co-chairs, Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges tells National Review.
Michael Hartley, the deputy campaign manager for Kasich’s 2010 gubernatorial bid, will serve as state director. Hartley, who was the Ohio political director for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2004 and managed representative Steve Stivers’ 2008 campaign, is now president of Swing State Strategies, a public-affairs and political consulting firm and is known as one of the top grassroots organizers in Ohio.
Kasich boasts a 61 percent approval rating in his home state, making him a clear favorite in the March 15 winner-take-all primary. But for Kasich to win, he has to still be in the race, and some campaigns are making preparations for the possibility that he is not.
Bush’s super PAC, for instance, is set to spend $1 million in the state before the end of this calendar year, consultant Mike Murphy told the Columbus Dispatch last week. And Bush’s campaign, according to an Ohio source, is looking for a state director right now. Florida senator Marco Rubio has the endorsement of state treasurer Josh Mandel, with whom he campaigned before the first Republican debate in Cleveland last month.
Kasich’s announcement is meant in part as a warning shot to other campaigns looking to build an organization in Ohio.
Borges says the organization had nothing to do with the actions of other campaigns, but that he would advise other campaigns not to ”waste your money here.” What’s more, he says, “As a party, we spend an awful lot of time working to hold this disparate group of Republicans together,” in a state where Democrats hold a voter-registration advantage. “If anyone’s undertaking any efforts to try to divide Republicans here,” he says, “it would piss me off.”
“There’s really no question that John’s political organization, Kasich’s political organization in Ohio is unmatched, unmatchable and will be very, very strong,” Borges says.
Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated since its initial publication to clarify Borges’ remark.