WATN Files — John Kasich

Hoovers Birthplace

Hoover's Birthplace

Politico carries news today that John Kasich might give Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland a run for his money in 2010.  A new poll out shows Kasich just a couple of points behind Strickland.

Back in the late 90s, when Ross and Rachel still had not gotten together and Kasich was a powerful Republican congressman, he toyed around with running for president. That meant spending quite a bit of time in Iowa, where toe-dipping is, of course, an art form.

And it was 10 years ago last month that Kasich made some Iowa caucus history. He was the first White House wanabee brave enough to visit Herbert Hoover’s library and birthplace.

I was on the scene May 7, 1999, and wrote this:

They’ve tromped through rustic barnyards, gulped down gallons of coffee shop brew and grabbed hands in town after town, but as long as the folks around here can remember, no presidential toe-dipper has ever set foot in West Branch.

For reasons some can guess but few can explain, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, Iowa’s only homegrown White House occupant, has been a political no-man’s land. That is, until Friday.

Ohio Congressman John Kasich served up a small slice of caucus history when he strode through the doors of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, paid his $2 and took the grand tour.

“This is very cool. This is great,” said Kasich, who is seeking the Republican nomination in 2000. His visit was officially non-political because partisan campaigning is prohibited at a federal historic sight, even the boyhood home of a Republican president.

“How many presidents are there from Iowa? (‘One’ was the answer.) See, it’s a big deal,” Kasich joked.

Kasich’s pioneering presence was a very big deal to West Branch Hoover fans like Floyd Fawcett, who sat on the original library planning board in 1939. The museum and library opened in August 1962 and draws about 80,000 people each year.

“I didn’t think I’d live long enough to see this,” Fawcett said. “We thought most candidates didn’t want to come here because of Hoover and the (Great) Depression.”

My favorite quotes came while Kasich toured the museum. The guy really, really liked to talk.

“I never knew they called him Bert, how about that…When I’m president, I’m bringing back hats…So he had a dog?”

Sadly, Kasich never got a chance to bring back hats. He later abandoned his presidential run.

Apparently, not even Kasich remembers his Iowa travels. His gubernatorial campaign bio doesn’t even mention his brief White House aspirations, or Herbert Hoover. Go figure.

Maybe if he becomes governor of Ohio, we’ll see him around these parts again someday.

If you’ve never visited West Branch and the Hoover site, you should. As the congressman said, it’s very cool.

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