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In a June 13 interview on Fox News’ Hannity program, Gov. John Kasich retold an old tale — how he beat incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland despite the Democrat getting repeated help from President Barack Obama, who jetted to the Buckeye State on Air Force One to help his party mate.
If this is starting to sound familiar, it should.
"The president came in and campaigned against me 12 times," Kasich told Sean Hannity. "And, you know, I mean, it didn’t work."
Kasich made the comment after Hannity asked the governor about his invitation to play golf with the president on June 18, and how comfortable he would be with Obama given their political differences.
But did Obama really come to Ohio 12 times to campaign against Kasich?
Kasich has made this claim several times since being elected and Politifact Ohio has checked it and rechecked it. And while it is true Obama came to Ohio in 2010 to help Strickland with his bid for re-election, Politifact Ohio has also noted that the governor is clearly overstating the scope of the president’s assistance.
The facts bear repeating, so here it goes.
Obama did indeed visit Ohio 12 times between taking office in January 2009 and the November 2010 election. But a review of Obama’s travel schedule and the speeches he made offers a different picture.
One of Obama’s visits, for instance, occurred March 3, 2009, a full two months before Kasich even announced his candidacy.
And of Obama’s 12 trips, nine were made under the guise of official White House business during which he pushed specific policies – mainly health care reform and the economic stimulus bill.
Two trips in 2010, Oct. 17 and Oct. 31, were made specifically to campaign for Strickland and the Democratic ticket. And on a trip made Aug. 18, 2010, Obama hosted a fund-raiser for Strickland and in a separate event pushed his economic polices.
Transcripts from Obama’s non-campaign visits show he referred to Republicans in Washington many times in arguing that his policies are better than GOP plans. But Obama never mentioned the governor’s race or Kasich.
At a campaign rally Oct. 17 before 35,000 people in Columbus, Obama never mentioned Kasich. He did name Kasich twice when he spoke at an Oct. 31 rally in Cleveland.
So, by that recounting, Obama actually visited Ohio just three times to directly campaign or raise money for Strickland and only once in those three trips did the president actually mention Kasich by name.
Kasich’s campaign team argues that every time Obama trekked into Ohio during a campaign season, his visibility alone could be taken as a campaign stop for Strickland, who trailed in the gubernatorial race the entire way and ended up losing by two percentage points.
"Whether it’s one visit or 12 visits, Ohio is a key state and clearly the President wanted to keep his party in control of it going into 2012," Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said Thursday.
And on several of the "non-campaign" stops, Strickland was at the president's side, Nichols rightfully points out, which certainly gives the impression that Obama was visiting to stomp for Strickland.
But conversely, Ohio is an important political state for anyone seeking to be elected or re-elected president and Obama, facing re-election next year, could just as well have been trying to maintain and strengthen his own political fortunes in this bellwether state.
The governor does have reason to be proud of his election victory.
Here’s a completely accurate statement the governor could use that is remarkable unto itself: Kasich was the first person to defeat an incumbent Ohio governor since 1974.
That alone makes his victory historically significant.
As we have said before, there is a small element of truth in Kasich’s claim. Obama did make 12 visits to Ohio prior to the November 2010 election.
But he made just three trips directly on Strickland’s behalf and he mentioned Kasich by name in his remarks on just one. Those are critical facts that give a different impression.
On the Truth-O-Meter, that means Kasich’s claim rates Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.
Fox News, "Kasich readies for golf summit," interview with Sean Hannity, June 13, 2011
PolitiFact Ohio, "Gov. John Kasich says Barack Obama came to Ohio 12 times to campaign against him," Feb. 25, 2011
PolitiFact Ohio, "John Kasich says Democratic opposition amounted to an unprecedented smear campaign," Nov. 15, 2011
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