In 1978, Governor Jim Rhodes refused to debate his Democratic challenger, Dick Celeste. Thirty-six years later, Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich is taking the same position. On Tuesday, Kasich’s campaign announced it was walking away from debate negotiations with Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald.
FitzGerald’s campaign said the departure of two aides was hardly an implosion.
“He’s not accepting the challenge because his handlers know that when the Governor is forced to speak on his feet he reveals his disdain for working Ohioans and he is unable to defend his record of helping his wealthy friends at the expense of Ohio’s middle class,” says Lauren Hitt, FitzGerald’s campaign spokesperson.
But Kasich isn’t the only Ohio Republican ditching debates this year. Attorney General Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Jon Husted, and State Treasurer Josh Mandel have all declined to participate in the City Club of Cleveland’s debate series.
Mandel is a former U.S. Senate candidate with future statewide ambitions and Husted is often touted as a future gubernatorial prospect. Their assurance in victory by skipping the debates represents a blow to Democrats. The party failed to recruit strong challengers in a state President Obama carried by over 100,000 votes in 2012 and Sherrod Brown won by nearly 300,000 the same year.
Brimming with confidence, Kasich, who leads FitzGerald by 30 points in a new Columbus Dispatch poll, may be looking beyond 2014, fueling speculation of a White House run in 2016. In an editorial board meeting with the Cincinnati Enquirer, he stopped short of ruling out what would be his second Presidential bid.
“All I’m considering now is winning and keeping Ohio going,” Kasich said. ”When I was very young … I’d see the governors walking around, and I’m like, ‘Gosh, that’s the governor there.’ Now I’m the governor. … This is the job I want. Period.”