COLUMBUS, Ohio (CGE) – New Republican Governor of Ohio John Kasich waged a war last year on then-incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, saying he balanced state budgets by robbing money from dedicated funds, used accounting tricks, raised taxes, and, worst of all, accepted billions in federal stimulus funds, which have dried up as fast as a small cloud burst in a thirsty desert.
But now that Gov. Kasich’s friend and political alter-ego, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, has removed himself from the GOP race for the White House, Kasich, who said he told both Tim Pawlenty, former Governor of Minnesota, and Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts, last week that he can’t commit to either of them now because his state plate is too full, may one day have no option but to back Pawlenty, who a growing chorus of pundits say has the best shot at being the standard bearer for the GOP against President Obama.
In 2010, Kasich, a former Congressman from central Ohio who had been out of the political limelight for almost a decade, flooded the zone with roundhouse criticism of Strickland, who assumed office just as the Great Recession was taking hold of the country, for generally mismanaging the state’s finances.
Pawlenty, or TPaw as he’s been dubbed by friends and critics alike, made his official announcement for the White House Monday. Pawlenty wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that one media watcher said “adopts the right-wing, anti-Social Security and anti-Medicare sales pitch lock, stock, and barrel.”
“I’m going to try something a little unusual in politics. I’m just going to tell the truth. Washington is broken, our country is going broke, and our long-term financial outlook will make the pain of the recent recession pale in comparison,” TPaw wrote in his editorial.
But critics other than Democrats are coming out to criticize the candidate some say is boring but may be the best the GOP can muster for next year. One of those critics, Arne Carlson, a Republican and former Governor of Minnesota, took TPaw on in a segment of the Ed Schultz Show on MSNBC Monday night that filleted TPaw for leaving his state billions in debt, while balancing his two-year budgets using the same game plan Ohio Gov. Kasich criticized Ted Strickland for, and which Kasich himself may be guilty of.
“I don’t think any governor has left behind a worse financial mess than he has,” Arne Carlson, a Republican who was Minnesota’s governor from 1991 to 1999, said of Pawlenty.
Carlson told Schultz that the GOP should nominate its best and brightest and that Tpaw doesn’t warrant any kind of advancement. In the eight years prior to his time in office, Carlson said property taxes in Minnesota rose $716 million, but during the Pawlenty years, property taxes went up $2.5 billion. Carlson took on Pawlenty’s claim, which sounds eerily similar to what Gov. Kasich says, that he balanced budgets without raising taxes. That’s not true, Carlson said on the show, explaining that Pawlenty merely pushed the responsibility to local governments. “That’s not solving the problem, just pushing the problem down the pike,” Carlson said, adding that Moody’s Investment Services, a national bond rating firm, issued yearly warnings during TPaw’s years of financial mismanagement, the consequences of which are that the state’s bond rating was lowered, forcing it to pay millions more in interest payments.
Included in Pawlenty’s budget balancing moves is borrowing billions designated for health care for Minnesotans, taking $1.4 billion from education funding, forcing locals to raise property taxes, borrowing $400 million for health car for low income families, delaying corporate income tax funds and accepting $2.3 billion in federal stimulus funds while simultaneously criticizing the Obama administration for making the funds available.
Carlson accused Pawlenty of having budget deficits each year of his administration, long before the onset of the Great Recession, and said the media seems to be blind to the true record of governors.
Pawlenty responded to Carlson’s swipes, saying the former governor wasn’t a neutral broker because he supported Obama in 2008. Carlson countered, saying while he did back Obama, he also backed Pawlenty when he first ran, and appointed Pawlenty’s wife to the bench.
In an AP-GfK poll taking in May of this year, comparing favorability/unfavorability ratings of the field of possible GOP candidates, Pawlenty’s unfavorable rating was two points higher than his favorability rating, 26-24. Among likely voters, both were at 33. TPaw’s numbers were significantly lower than others like Romney, Daniels or even Donald Trump, a New York deal maker and developer and star of NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice TV show.
As for Gov. Kasich, he has been accused of balancing Ohio’s $8 billion budget shortfall by withholding billions in state funds that under better times would flow to local governments and school districts, as Carlson accused Pawlenty of doing.
It is a foregone reality of politics that Kasich will back whomever becomes the GOP presidential candidate. If it is TPaw, Kasich may be forced to cozy up to a candidate who did as Governor of Minnesota what Kasich criticized Strickland for last year to make ends meet and live within available resources in Ohio without raising taxes.
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