Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich vowed July 21 to bring his Heartland sensibilities and big ideas to the national stage, making official what most people have known for months.
"I have decided to run for president of the United States," Kasich told a cheering, chanting, sign-waving crowd of supporters at Ohio State University's student Union. "... I believe I do have the skills, and I have the experience and the testing -- the testing, which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world."
He added, "I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States. ... We are going to take the lessons of the Heartland and straighten out Washington, D.C."
The formal announcement capped months of speculation, fueled by out-of-state visits by Kasich to New Hampshire, South Carolina and elsewhere as he tested the waters for a 2016 run.
His campaign launch included a speech of more than 40 minutes, heard in person by hundreds of supporters who packed the OSU Union and adjacent outdoor areas. His campaign said upward of 4,400 requests were made for tickets to attend the announcement, though the actual indoor space had a fire-code limit of less than 2,000.
With his entrance, Kasich became the 16th declared GOP candidate, with at least one more to come. He'll have to jockey for position quickly in order to qualify for the first Republican presidential debate next month in Cleveland, with the top 10 candidates in national polls to be picked to participate.
Democrats gathered outside Kasich's event to spotlight the negatives of the governor's performance in office, including local government cuts and tax policies that they said benefit wealthy residents.
"From championing the original government shutdown in the mid-1990s that cost taxpayers as much as $800 million to serving as a managing director for one of the investment banks that was integral to the 2008 crash and subsequent economic crisis that put nearly 9 million Americans out of work, John Kasich's callous actions are only matched by his notoriously dismissive attitude toward hardworking Americans," DNC Chairwoman and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a released statement. "As governor of Ohio, Kasich has cut taxes for the wealthy while placing stress on local governments to clean up his messes. He's cut almost $2 billion in education funding and signed some of the most restrictive women's health laws in the country."
But the governor used the July 21 event to offer his credentials for the White House and to outline his priorities if successful in next year's Republican primary and general election.
He talked about the importance of "very big ideas," reciting his past electoral successes at the Ohio Statehouse and in Congress.
In the former, he served during a time of split power, with Republicans controlling the Senate and Democrats controlling the House.
"... I learned to work across the aisle ... and that is where I learned that policy is far more important that politics, ideology or any of the other nonsense that we see," he said.
As a congressman, he served 18 years on the armed services committee, focusing on national security. He also remained persistent in his push to balance the federal budget. He accomplished that task as chief architect of a balanced budget under President Bill Clinton.
As governor, Kasich touted job growth, tax cuts and budget surpluses, along with a restoration of jobs lost during the recession prior to his taking office.
He also referenced policy decisions by his administration to help needy residents.
"If you're drug addicted, we're going to try to rehab you and get you on your feet," he said. "If you're mentally ill, prison is no place for you. Some treatment and some help is where you need to be. If you're the working poor, we're going to give you an opportunity to take a pay raise and not bang you over the head because you're trying to get ahead."
Those experiences and others, he said, position him well to serve as the nation's chief executive.
Kasich provided a snapshot of his national priorities, including increased support for the armed forces, the elimination of burdensome and unnecessary regulations and, at the top of the list, a balanced federal budget.
On national security, he offered, "Our military must be improved... We need to strengthen our services. Now I'm a person that doesn't like to spend a lot of money, but in this case, national security climbs to the very top of the heap, because we must be strong...."
On over-regulation: "We'll tame the bureaucracy, we'll restore some common sense. ... Get rid of all those stupid rules. ... How about getting some people in the government that understand job creators and respect them rather than beating them down."
And on a balanced federal budget: "We do not have the right as grownups to ring up debts to suit ourselves and pass them onto the next generation. I promise you that my top priority will get this country on a path to fiscal independence, strength, and we will rebuild the economy of this country because creating jobs is the highest moral purpose, and we will move to get that done."
Kasich also called for more national unity. He refrained from criticizing other presidential candidates directly, much the same way he handled his two campaigns for governor in Ohio.
"There are some that will try to divide us, we see it all the time," he said. "I don't pay attention to that nonsense. At the end of the day, it's about being together because, you know, it says 'We The People.'"
He added, "I'm just a flawed man trying to honor God's blessings in my life. ... I will do my very best to serve you. ... The light of the city on a hill cannot be hidden. America is that city, and you are that light."
The governor wasted no time in taking to the campaign trail following his announcement, with events planned in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Iowa and Michigan through the end of the week.
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.