Kasich, 63, was raised a Catholic but turned to a more fundamentalist brand of Christianity after his parents were killed by a drunk driver in 1987. He was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, but left the blue-collar town outside Pittsburgh to attend Ohio State University. As a freshman, he requested a meeting with President Richard Nixon, who obliged.
Kasich defeated an incumbent Democrat in 1978 to become the youngest person elected to the Ohio Senate, at age 26. Four years later, he was elected to the U.S. House, where he served nine terms. Kasich rose to prominence in 1997, when as House budget chairman, he became the chief architect of a deal that balanced the federal budget for the first time in decades.
A short-lived bid for president in 2000 led Kasich to trade Washington in 2001 for a decade-long stint as an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. In 2010, he narrowly defeated a once-popular Democratic incumbent to become Ohio governor.
Kasich cites his Christian faith for his pragmatic mix of policy positions -- favoring income-tax cuts and smaller government while supporting Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law and certain tax increases. That's the focus of the American Future Fund's ad against him in New Hampshire. Says the spot: "John Kasich: Not a conservative. Not even a moderate. An Obama Republican." Kasich says he hasn't abandoned the conservative agenda but redefines it around core American values.
Balancing the federal budget. In addition to building the first balanced budget in years while in the House, he went on as Ohio governor to cut, reshape or privatize much of the state government, erasing a projected $8 billion budget gap and seeing employment restored to pre-recession levels. Labor unions, armed with video of Kasich calling a police officer an idiot, prevailed in a 2011 clash, winning repeal of a law he'd signed curtailing collective bargaining rights for public employees. Kasich is a budget wonk -- but as such he endured years of litigation, political resistance and media investigations after he privatized Ohio's economic development department, designing the nonprofit JobsOhio to "move at the speed of business."
In March, he announced that Ohio had regained the more than the 406,000 private-sector jobs lost during the recession, a fulfilment of a campaign promise and, as he saw it, a vindication of his effort. Ohio's recovery mirrored national trends. But he said JobsOhio, tax cuts and innovation in government set an example for other states.
Kasich was asked in one debate about his assessment that his rivals' tax and other plans are "crazy." This set off a riff:
"To talk about (how) we're just gonna have a 10 percent tithe and that's how we're gonna fund the government? And we're going to just fix everything with waste, fraud, and abuse? Or that we're just going to be great? Or we're going to ship 10 million people out of this country, leaving their children here in this country and dividing families? Folks, we've got to wake up. We cannot elect somebody that doesn't know how to do the job. You have got to pick somebody who has experience, somebody that has the know-how, the discipline."
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(Last updated by The Associated Press on February 29, 2016.)