You can’t even call him a one-hit wonder. From Iowa to the Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses, Ohio Gov. John Kasich couldn’t win one.

His quixotic crusade to be the Republican presidential nominee has lost every partisan contest so far. The best Mr. Kasich has done is come in second.

Even relocating to New England months ago didn’t help. He glad-handed voters in a marathon effort. He gambled a sizable chunk of resources on winning New Hampshire. Maybe he could snag neighboring Vermont and Massachusetts too.

Donald Trump won all three contests.

Ohio’s largely absentee governor is counting on his home state to put him on top in the March 15 primary. He told CNN: “I’m going to beat Donald Trump in Ohio. Once that happens, everything changes.”

A recent Quinnipiac University survey showed Mr. Trump beating Mr. Kasich in Ohio by a narrow margin. That percentage could tighten over the next few days.

Coming in second in Ohio might still give Mr. Kasich a shot on the GOP ticket. Perhaps positioning himself as the ideal choice for second banana has been his goal from the beginning.

But if he can’t carry his own battleground state, as the rational establishment candidate with a political pedigree, how will he wow the country? Besides, the mostly untold story during the primary season about Mr. Kasich’s Ohio baggage is bound to raise eyebrows.

The man who likes to hug and promote harmony on the campaign trail has a history in Ohio that might surprise outsiders. For example, Mr. Kasich:

— Placated the hard right of his party by defunding Planned Parenthood.

— Pandered to polluters by rolling back renewable-energy mandates in Ohio.

— Signed restrictive voting bills into law.

— Pushed tax cuts at the expense of cities and schools, which were ultimately forced to raise taxes on local residents.

— Orchestrated a state takeover of local schools with the “Youngstown Plan.”

— Rejected outside investigation of an unresolved charter school scandal that occurred under top Kasich appointees at the Ohio Department of Education.

— Tried to gut the collective bargaining rights of public employees before Ohioans overwhelmingly rebuked him in a statewide referendum.

In 2010, Mr. Kasich squeaked into the governor’s office by two percentage points over incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland. Four years later, his Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald, self-destructed and handed Mr. Kasich a landslide victory.

Mr. Kasich took credit for Ohio’s economic rebound after the Great Recession. But he and other Republican leaders in the state seem oblivious to the Ohioans who have never recovered from the economic downturn, and have lost hope of doing so.

We keep waiting for something to trickle down from the Ohio miracle that Mr. Kasich used to brag about. But while “job creators” were showered with tax breaks, ostensibly to stimulate job growth, the middle class struggled to stay middle-class.

Jobs that pay livable wages are hard to find. Part-time minimum-wage positions without benefits are plentiful.

An Ohioan’s money doesn’t buy much, from housing to tuition. People are taking on debt like a boat taking on water. More households are falling below the poverty level. Food banks are swamped on distribution days — in the suburbs.

The silent majority, courted by Mr. Trump, feels powerless. Mr. Kasich is a career politician with a record of sidling up to the powerful when he makes policy in Ohio.

The perception is of a governor who caters shamelessly to conservatives on social issues and obliges wealthy contributors on everything else. The average Ohioan, trying to stay afloat financially with a worried eye on the future, has no real voice in state government — and won’t as long as gerrymandered partisans protect their self-interest.

Unlike Mr. Kasich, who clings to the notion that he’s destined for greatness, Mr. Trump has tapped into the anger of the voiceless masses and expects to ride their angst to the Republican nomination for president. Time to get on the bus or get run over, governor.

Marilou Johanek is a columnist for The Blade.


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