Ohio, a must-win state for White House hopefuls, now has one of its own in the running for president.
Gov. John Kasich, fresh from a resounding re-election win, has become the 16th Republican to enter the 2016 presidential sweepstakes. A savvy politician with a Reagan-esque sense of optimism, Kasich faces an uphill battle in the crowded GOP race but appears confident that he can set himself apart and pull off a win.
Kasich is a conservative in a field of conservatives, but he's also a pragmatist with a moderate bent, willing to soft pedal ideology. He pushed to expand Medicaid in Ohio, citing compassion for the poor, breaking with Republicans in Columbus who decried Obamacare.
He was virtually alone among presidential contenders in saying bluntly that the Confederate flag belongs in museums, not flying on government property, when the question arose in the wake of the Charleston tragedy.
He made grudging peace with public employees' unions after his bid to curb them was rebuffed at the ballot box.
He isn't afraid to say that he's changed his mind. His disdain for prepared speeches extends to his State of the State messages, which have a flavor of free association to them.
He is a child of the '60s who talks about making Ohio "cool" again. He can be arrogant as well as audacious. He revels in being unpredictable. And he can be candid to a fault.
Kasich's presidential campaign is likely to echo his 2014 re-election platform: He will talk about how he faced a budget deficit of nearly $8 billion when he took office in the aftermath of the Great Recession; how he focused on cutting taxes and curtailing spending to balance the budget; how Ohio's rainy-day fund went from zero to an all-time high; and how the Buckeye State has rebounded from the collapse of its manufacturing sector.
He undoubtedly will remind Republicans that he has proven he can win political bellwether Ohio; no GOP candidate has ever won the White House without carrying it. (The fact that his mandate was due, in part, to his good fortune in running against the hapless Ed FitzGerald will probably go unspoken.)
His immediate challenge will be to gain enough of a political bounce to move up in the polls to win a spot among the top 10 Republican candidates so that he can compete in the first GOP presidential debate, which will take place in early August in Cleveland. Doing so could position Kasich -- a one-time TV commentator who knows how to play to the audience -- for a breakaway moment that could fuel momentum for his candidacy. In a field of better-known rivals, Kasich is a new face and a new voice.
Ohio hasn't had a major contender in a presidential race since 1984, when Sen. John Glenn mounted a brief campaign; Kasich himself had a brief candidacy in 2000 that went nowhere.
It's been even longer since a sitting governor ran for the Oval Office -- the last was John Bricker, who ran in 1944 and settled for a spot for vice president on the Republican ticket headed by Thomas Dewey.
In running for the White House, Gov. Kasich is bucking history and conventional political wisdom, but he'll probably say that he isn't a long shot -- just a little less known that some of the others in the GOP field. His focus, at the political starting gate, will be to become better known.
"I'm a normal person," he told The Associated Press this year, "but that makes me unorthodox in politics." Whether that will be enough to make him more than another face in the crowd remains to be seen.