John Kasich's unofficial but hard-nosed campaign for the White House

Late last night, several hundred Republicans gathered in an old barn, out of the gusting rain, near Monroe to hear Ohio Gov. John Kasich try out his presidential chops in the South.

Earlier in the day, Kasich spoke to a group of potential supporters in Sandy Springs. Todd Rehm of GaPundit.com has helpfully posted the audio.

But Kasich is already running a hard-nosed campaign. He and his small entourage arrived late to the Walton County GOP barbecue, after bulling their way through Atlanta traffic and some fierce storms. The Ohio governor’s first priority was to spend a few minutes with a Fox News journalist. Then with a print reporter whose newspapers circulate into South Carolina.

A stump speech followed. Even here, Kasich made his priorities clear. A last questioner in the audience offered the governor the opportunity to declare his candidacy there and then. Kasich said he wasn’t quite ready:

“I’m not going to do this if I don’t think I can win. Do I think I can win? It’s becoming increasingly clear that I can… Look, I’m glad to be in Georgia. I’m headed to South Carolina.”

You could sense the cold-blooded “but” coming on:

“I’m going to spend a lot of my time in New Hampshire. Today I announced John Sununu as my chairman. He’s one of the most important people in the whole state of New Hampshire….”

The GOP field for president will be large and unwieldy. Standing out will require a distinct message, and Kasich appears to be ready to market himself as the truth-teller in the pack – the fellow who is unafraid to let the base know that an “us vs. the moochers” approach might play in a primary, but it won’t get you the White House. Here was Kasich’s final pitch:

“I’m not interested in a book contract, a television show or anything else. That’s not my interest. People want me to criticize the people running – I won’t do it…

“What you see here tonight, this is what you get. There’s no secret talk in the back room, there’s no secret talk in a car. This is what you get. You get direct. You get knowledgeable. When you look at the field, nobody has the experience on national security, the accomplishments in Washington, and has been an executive in a big state – like the state of Ohio.

“And remember: Ohio is a microcosm. When I talk to you all about unity, bringing people together, ending the polarization – if we do not do that, we will not win Ohio.”

And no Republican presidential candidate has won without his state. More on this later today.

***

We have more details on Hillary Clinton's quick swing through Atlanta for a Thursday morning fundraiser.

We're told that the event will be at the home of A.J. Johnson, the founding partner of the Georgetown Capital private equity firm and a member of the Points of Light board. That nonprofit, you'll recall, was helmed by Michelle Nunn before she ran for the U.S. Senate.

The price of admission won't be cheap: It will cost $2,700 to get in the door and far more to be listed as an official host.

Clinton's trip comes a day after the former Secretary of State stops by South Carolina for her first visit since 2007. The trip to Georgia will also be her first of the campaign, though it won't be public.

***

Hillary Clinton will use her stop in South Carolina this morning to outline three steps to build her women's economic agenda.

Her campaign said she would call out Republicans for "standing in the way of equal pay" and pledge to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, promote pay transparency and raise wages for the lowest-paid jobs.

***

Gov. Nathan Deal's secretive overseas mission in January caused quite a bit of panic in South Carolina.

At the time, the two states were locked in a brutal fight over a $500 million Volvo plant. Deal's office wouldn't comment on his whereabouts, aside to say he was on an economic development mission. (He was in England to court Jaguar Land Rover executives).

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley told the Charleston Post & Courier that "every state likes to think they have ears on the ground in the other state," but that she got freaked out when she learned of Deal's journey.

From the story:

Haley remembers the weekend in January when Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal left the country without telling the public where he was going or why. Haley initially thought Deal was in Sweden, making a closing pitch to Volvo. ...

Haley’s concerns proved to be unfounded — Volvo announced May 11 that it will build its $500 million car factory in Berkeley County — although she said she still keeps tabs on her neighboring counterpart.

“Wherever he goes, I have to make sure I know where he’s going and what he’s doing and make sure that we’ve already talked to them before he gets there,” she said.

***

The Georgia AFL-CIO is launching a series of statewide protests today aimed at convincing Republicans to oppose trade promotion authority -- labeled "fast track" -- for President Barack Obama to negotiate a Pacific trade deal.

Unions and the GOP aren't exactly friendly, but it appears they have the state's Democrats convinced to vote against TPA already. The protests will hit offices in Atlanta (Sen. Johnny Isakson), Augusta (Rep. Rick Allen), Savannah (Rep. Buddy Carter), Macon (Rep. Austin Scott) and Rome (Rep. Tom Graves).

Isakson already voted for the bill in the Senate, while Carter has said he's for it in the House. The rest of the House members have not made their feelings known publicly.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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