Fairlawn, Ohio (CNN) – John Kasich is fed up.
Ohio's Republican gubernatorial nominee has withstood more than a year of "fears and smears" against him, he told CNN Wednesday evening, largely from out-of-state liberals desperate to keep Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in Columbus.
His frustration at the race's negative tone appeared to boil over this week during a three-day statewide bus tour, in which Kasich unleashed several speeches angrily accusing Democrats of mudslinging, lies and nefarious plots aimed at undermining his campaign.
It's a dicey closing message - he risks stepping on his jobs-oriented pitch in the race's final days - but Kasich said he finally had to speak his mind.
"I wanted to set the record straight, because when you've put up with about a year and a half worth of smears, you want to let people know what they're fighting for and what's it's about," Kasich told CNN after speaking at a Summit County Republican Party event. "I am real pleased with the campaign that we've run."
Both campaigns, along with their out-of-state allies and Washington-based political committees, have aired negative ads.
Republicans have drilled down on the more than 400,000 Ohio jobs lost under Strickland's watch since taking office in 2007 and linked the governor to some of President Obama's more controversial policies.
Strickland and organized labor groups have portrayed Kasich as a creature of Wall Street – he spent several years as an Ohio branch manager for Lehman Brothers – who supported gun restrictions and looser trade deals while serving in Congress.
Kasich insisted that his campaign has "been about the economics here in Ohio" instead of the "innuendo and smears" that he said Democrats are pushing.
"Whether it's telling people that we want to take away a tax break when they get their chemotherapy drugs, or whether it's telling people I want to take away their guns, or whether its telling people I want to take away their pension system, these are just fears," he said, outlining concerns he said he has heard from supporters in recent weeks.
Earlier in the day, Strickland laughed off Kasich's claims, saying his rival is frustrated that his longtime lead in the polls has essentially evaporated down the final stretch. Most polls suggest the race is a toss-up.
"I think he sees victory slipping through his fingers," Strickland told CNN. "He assumed it was over, and it's not over."
Kasich said he always knew the race would be close given Ohio's bellwether status, but he nevertheless pointed to Quinnipiac poll this week showing him with a 6-point advantage over Strickland. (Earlier Quinnipiac surveys showed him with larger leads).
"We have got the wind at our back," Kasich maintained. "But the liberals in this country have spent a ton of money. It's part of what you put up with when you go into politics. I am not surprised it's gotten closer, but we're going to win."