Ohio Gov. John Kasich, returning to the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, announced Tuesday that he would be candidate number 16 to join the Republican presidential field.
"I have to humbly tell you that I have the skills and the experience and the testing, which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world," Kasich said. He added, "We are going to take the lessons of the heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C. and fix our country."
Kasich enters the race with a history of being a fiscal conservative going back to being the lead figure in balancing the federal budget in the 1990s, but also departing from the GOP on the issue of Medicaid expansion and support for the controversial Common Core education standards.
John Kasich, governor of Ohio, speaks while announcing he will seek the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in Columbus, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Kasich, seeking to emerge from a crowded Republican presidential field as a practical and compassionate leader from a must-win swing state, is joins 15 other Republicans who have declared their candidacies. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
He recalled his time working with Ronald Reagan going back to the 1976 Republican primary, and said that, "Big ideas change the world."
Kasich also offers the Republicans the chance to carry the coveted swing state of Ohio and its 20 electoral votes that were key to the re-election victories of both Presidents George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012. Kasich won re-election in the state last year with about 64 percent of the vote.
But he might be left out of a milestone event for the GOP contest occurring in his own state. The Fox News debate to be held Aug. 6 in Cleveland, the first debate of the campaign season, is only open to the top 10 Republican presidential candidates. Kasich is not currently in the top 10. Acknowledging he might be a long shot in the campaign, he talked about his past wins in the Ohio state legislature and for Congress, balancing the federal budget and winning the governor's race despite skepticism.
"They said it couldn't be done and we proved them wrong again," he repeated throughout the speech. Toward the end of the speech, regarding the presidential race, he said, "Together, we will prove them wrong again, won't we?"
Kasich will have some issues with the conservative bases of his party. He backs the Common Core State Standards for Ohio schools, and previously said opponents are engaged in “hysteria.” Further, he implemented the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio, a key provision of Obamacare, and has staunchly defended the move. Other GOP governors in the race – such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana – have rejected the expansion.
He didn't mention Medicaid or Common Core, but made an implicit acknowledgment.
"Policy is more important than politics or ideology or any other nonsense," Kasich said.
Kasich served in Congress for 18 years. When Republicans won a majority Congress in the 1994 elections, he became the chairman of the House Budget Committee and helped battle President Bill Clinton for nearly two years before both sides reached a deal on a balanced budget in 1997, the first balanced budget since 1969.
"Budgets are not about numbers, they are about vision and values," Kasich said. "We don't have the right as grownups to run up debt and pass to the next generation."
With that record as a budget balancer, Kasich has traveled the country to advocated for a convention of the states to enact a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He brought it up again in the announcement speech.
"How about a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution so Congress will start doing its job," Kasich said.
Kasich made an abbreviated run for president in 2000 before dropping out to endorse eventual Republican nominee George W. Bush. He spent a decade out of Congress as a Fox News pundit, an author, and a managing director in the investment banking division of Lehman Brothers.
He was elected to his first term as governor in 2010, beating incumbent Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. and cruised to re-election four years later. He closed an $8 billion state budget shortfall, reducing spending and cutting taxes by $800 million in the state.