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NYT Magazine: Did Barack Obama Save Ohio?

Author: Matt Bai
September 5, 2012


Matt Bai discusses with Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich whether it was Kasich's JobsOhio program or President Obama's stimulus plan and the bailout of automotive giant General Motors that should be credited with improving the job market and economy in Ohio.

The way John Kasich sees it, he is fulfilling a grand design, a mission for which he was chosen by God, to save Ohio. "It's like what what's-his-name told the hobbit," Ohio's Republican governor told me as we flew on the plane that ferries him around the state. "What's that guy's name? Gandel? Gandorf?" A pair of young aides seated across from Kasich called out helpfully over the drone of the engine. "Gandalf," Kasich repeated. "Do you remember what he told the hobbit?"

I didn't.

" 'You're a very fine fellow, mister hobbit,' " Kasich intoned, waving a finger at me. " 'But this is a wide world, and you don't think all these things happen by accident.' " He paused to let this sink in. "And I don't think it's an accident that I got into this job."

It was a Monday afternoon in July. Kasich had started out his day at a predominantly African-American church in Cleveland, where he signed a bill making it easier for ex-felons to get work. Next up was Maines Paper and Food Service, which had just signed a new contract to deliver the burgers and flatware and whatnot to Wendy's. Maines had decided to expand its operation in Ohio, rather than in Maryland, after Kasich's administration offered a package of tax incentives, and Kasich beamed as he shoveled ceremonial dirt for the new facility. As we left, the first wave of unemployed workers was already queuing in the 95-degree heat to fill out applications for 100 new jobs driving trucks or working in the warehouse.

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