COLUMBUS, Ohio » Gov. John Kasich is doing what he can to help Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney win the battleground state — and that sometimes includes holding his tongue.
The normally vocal Kasich has seen an uptick in his approval ratings since summer. The rise has coincided with his relative silence on divisive policy changes he’s advancing, including a tax increase on big oil drillers, further privatization of state functions and possible spending cuts to balance Ohio’s next two-year operating budget.
The Republican governor is focusing instead on email blasts to supporters, pro-Romney op-eds, upbeat rally speeches and national TV interviews touting GOP economic policies.
In a weekend op-ed in the Plain Dealer, Kasich said casting a vote for Romney would mean spreading business-friendly policies like Ohio’s across the nation and would heal the economy.
"The solution is simple. Do what we’re doing here in Ohio at a national level: Cut taxes, rein in spending, pursue common-sense regulations, make government work better and get it out of the way so job creators can do what they do best — innovate, grow and create jobs," he wrote. "Mitt Romney understands this and will do it as president."
The jobs focus has side-stepped other areas of the policy agenda Kasich and fellow Republicans have in mind for the state after the election, including brewing plans to revisit an unpopular law limiting public-employee collective bargaining that Ohio voters turned back last year.
"That’s Incumbency 101. You don’t want to come out with anything new or startling," said Republican consultant Terry Casey. "You want to have everything buttoned down — and that includes a governor or a president. Obama’s doing the same thing."
Meanwhile, the man Kasich beat two years ago — former Gov. Ted Strickland — has been a vocal and visible surrogate for Obama.
Strickland has been all over the national cable news shows talking up the president, toured southeast Ohio with Vice President Joe Biden and lost his voice after speaking at a string of rallies in the final days of the campaign.
A scratchy-throated Strickland warmed up the crowd at an Obama rally last Friday, saying that the former Massachusetts governor wasn’t being truthful when he said he backed the auto industry.
"I’ve got a message for Governor Romney: Buckeyes aren’t dumb," Strickland said in Lima. "We have figured this guy out."
Strickland has been the Obama campaign’s attack dog at the president’s rallies around Ohio. He has blasted Romney over his off-shore accounts and his earlier refusal to release all his tax returns, accusing the Republican of being secretive.