Friday, August 04, 2000
Kasich once and future contender
By HOWARD WILKINSON
The Cincinnati Enquirer
PHILADELPHIA John Kasich might have been the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, standing on the podium Thursday in the First Union Center, showered by confetti and balloons, waving at a hall full of delirious delegates in bizarre elephant snout hats, beside themselves in love and affection.
Might have been. Wasn't, though. Might be someday.
You can always dream. John Kasich, the suburban Columbus congressman whose brief, quixotic bid for the GOP nomination died a-borning last summer, does a lot of that.
At the lunch hour Thursday, he was the object of love and affection not of the crowd at First Union Center but of his Ohio delegation, whom he had invited for lunch on the last day of the Republican National Convention.
John Kasich at the Hard Rock Cafe, where he hosted a lunch for Ohio delegates.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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And where does a boyish-looking politician who went around the country last year working rock 'n' roll references into his speeches go when he wants to buy lunch for his home state Republicans?
The Hard Rock Cafe, of course.
About 300 Republicans made the three-block trek from their Courtyard by Marriott Hotel to the Philadelphia Hard Rock, courtesy of the Ohio politician who was considered not only too much of a live wire to be the presidential nominee, but too hyper-
kinetic to share the stage with George W. Bush as running mate.
They lined up 40 to 50 deep at the door to greet the one-time presidential candidate, who leaned against a counter where an autographed Eric Clapton guitar rested.
I love him; he's wonderful, said 75-year-old Jean Blackmore, a delegate from Troy, Ohio. I think he might be president someday. He's a good, solid conservative, but he is not some stick in the mud. He'll work with people to get something done.
It is hard sometimes to figure this son of a postman from the suburbs of Pittsburgh has gotten as far as he has.
Maybe it is because he is able to sound Republican and look un-Republican. He is not the button-down, blue-suit-and-
red-tie automaton that one sees so often in the Grand Old Party. He laughs and grins and makes jokes about himself and doesn't think that Pearl Jam is something you spread on English muffins.
He is, as one admirer said last year, as hip as it gets in the Republican Party.
Now, having given up his congressional seat for a long shot at the presidency, he is returning to what Republicans like to call the private sector. He made it clear he will be back.
Standing before the throng of Ohioans, with the sunlight pouring through a stained-glass holy trinity of Elvis, Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis, he promised them they had not heard the last of Johnny B. Goode.
I did want to be president; I gave it everything I had and I created a good base for myself, he said.
I'm going to go away for a while, but, like the Terminator, I'll be back.
Howard Wilkinson covers politics.
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