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Kasich forms exploratory committee to run for president

February 15, 1999
Web posted at: 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, February 15) -- Rep. John Kasich (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Budget Committee, Monday kicked off his run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

Announcing his campaign theme of giving America back to the American people, Kasich told supporters at the Columbus, Ohio, airport he would fight to "to restore power to ourselves."

Rep. John Kasich
Rep. John Kasich  

"We're going to take every bit of energy that we have over the period of the next couple of years," the nine-term congressman said. "We're going to fight every day to believe in ourselves, to connect ourselves to one another, to make the efforts to restore power to ourselves -- the power to educate our children, plan for our retirement, take care of our health care and to have more money in our pockets."

Kasich, who describes himself as a "mailman's kid," not a "millionaire's son," immediately hit the campaign trail, heading for stops in New Hampshire and Iowa. Iowa has the first presidential caucuses and New Hampshire the first presidential primary.

Earlier Monday, Kasich told more than 1,000 supporters and business leaders at his annual Presidents' Day breakfast that tax cuts would be a high priority.

"Tax cuts are not just about economic theory," he said. "They are about the fact that we can be empowered to do what we need to do in our own communities."

Kasich, 46, has already generated controversy within the GOP by proposing a 10 percent across-the-board tax cut that some could perceive as benefiting the rich, and thus become a target for Democratic attacks.

And no politician has made the leap from the House of Representatives to the White House in more than century. But that doesn't bother Kasich.

"I love the fact that no one's been elected from Congress because it's going to happen; it might as well be me. I mean, why not?" Kasich says.

He is so well liked by the GOP's young conservatives that the rebellious Class of 1994 made him an honorary member, even though he was first elected 12 years earlier. He has also won friends across the aisle by bucking party lines on issues like gun control and defense spending.

As House Budget Committee chairman, Kasich has his fingerprints on what was one of the biggest legislative accomplishments in recent years, the balanced budget agreement.

Even Kasich's friends acknowledge he is a long-shot candidate, but he has made a career out of being an underdog. In 1982, when Kasich first ran for Congress, he was only 30. He was also the only Republican House candidate that year to beat a Democratic incumbent.

Sunday on NBC's "Meet The Press," Kasich said that announcing the formation of his exploratory presidential committee was "the most important step" for him to take right now.

The Ohio Republican said he got into politics because he wanted to change the world "and I've been in it for 20 years, and I still want to change the world."

"And this has become a mission for me, the idea of trying to be a candidate," said Kasich. "Taking this step to be a candidate for president is about what I've always believed that my mission was, and that is to make America better, and I think America ought to be run from the bottom up -- from our communities and families up, rather than from a handful of elites down."

He said the country needs to have its "sense of faith in God" restored.

"It tells us what our responsibilities are," he said. "We spend our time in politics trying to change people from the outside in. People need to be changed from the inside out and faith in God will lead to that."

He acknowledged that his tax cut proposal would face an "interesting debate" within the GOP but cited it as the "single biggest insurance policy" against an economic slowdown.

"I think we need to get back to saying that if you work hard, if you struggle, if you get ahead, there ought to be rewards, not punishment," said Kasich.

"This is about power flowing from the people rather than running America with a handful of people deciding how to spend our money, how to plan for our retirement," he said.

The field of GOP presidential hopefuls is already getting crowded. While Elizabeth Dole and Gov. George W. Bush have not made up their minds yet, other Republicans, include Arizona Sen. John McCain, former Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander and conservative activist Gary Bauer, are already setting up exploratory committees.

CNN's Jonathan Karl and John King contributed to this report.

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Rep. Kasich to form exploratory presidential committee (01-12-99)

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Monday, February 15, 1999

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