By ANN SANNER and JULIE CARR SMYTH
COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. John Kasich has quickly transitioned from being in the public spotlight to keeping a low profile.
Since ending his Republican presidential bid, his office says the governor has been meeting privately with his staff. So far, no public events are on his schedule.
Regardless of his next steps, Kasich should have an easier transition from the presidential campaign trail back to the Statehouse compared to other GOP governors who have wrapped up their 2016 bids for the White House.
Here’s a look at some things to know as Kasich shifts his focus back to Ohio:
Kasich returns to work with fewer political bruises and state policy woes than other GOP governors who sought the party’s nomination.
Kasich’s standing with Republicans who control the Ohio Legislature never appeared to suffer during his time away. Both Senate and House Republican leaders endorsed Kasich for president and campaigned for him. Ohio also saw no major crises during his run.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie came off the trail to face an adversarial Democrat-led Legislature, dismal approval ratings and the state’s debt-laden public pension. Now-former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal couldn’t shake his low approval ratings or criticism about his governing that had dogged him during his presidential run. When he came home to Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker had to rebuild relations with GOP allies in the state legislature who were upset by some of his campaign rhetoric.
NO HARD FEELINGS
Kasich’s fellow GOP legislative leaders never suggested the governor was anything but fully available during the campaign. The governor’s spokesmen in Ohio have said Kasich remained in frequent contact with the leaders, his Cabinet members and other senior administration staff as he tromped around the country in his quest for the presidency.
The governor’s popularity with Ohio voters held relatively steady during the bulk of his campaign.
A Quinnipiac University poll from last August found 61 percent of Ohio voters approved of the job Kasich was doing — matching his all-time high rating. The same poll suggested in February that 56 percent still viewed him favorably.
PRESSURE STARTED BUILDING
While the Akron Beacon Journal endorsed Kasich in the state’s March 15 primary, the newspaper recently editorialized that he should exit the race following a stretch of primary losses. “Try as the Kasich campaign did to frame the outcome to the governor’s advantage, no amount of massaging can overcome the obvious.”
Kasich’s lackluster election performances would have been one thing in a vacuum. But, as Ohio’s governor, he’s furnished with a security detail paid for by state taxpayers. The unit’s costs are approaching $500,000 for the year, based on what can be gleaned from Ohio’s online checkbook. And lawmakers recently released another $2.2 million for the Ohio Highway Patrol’s security and investigations budget.
“The Kasich campaign has not come cheap to the people of Ohio,” editorialized The Blade of Toledo.
Kasich’s campaign and the governor’s office have refused to discuss his security costs.
The Ohio Democratic Party has called on the governor to release details of his security expenses and fork over money to cover them.
“We hope that the Kasich administration will provide a full accounting of the cost to Ohio taxpayers and Kasich’s campaign will reimburse the state for every single penny that his failed campaign cost the taxpayers of Ohio,” said party chairman David Pepper in a written statement on Wednesday.
Kasich, 63, has about two years left in his second term as the state’s top executive.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has said he would be interested in vetting Kasich as a possible running mate. But prior to Wednesday’s exit from the race, the governor has emphatically said he’s not eyeing the No. 2 slot.
In April, Kasich said there is “zero chance” of becoming vice president, to anyone — specifically Trump.
The governor indicated in his departure speech he was leaving his future plans up to a higher being.
“As I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life.”