Lebanon, Ohio (CNN) - The Republican Governors Association (RGA) took its cross-country road show to Ohio on Friday to stir up support for GOP gubernatorial nominee John Kasich, whose fight against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has become one of the closest and most unpredictable races in the country.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, the RGA's chairman, joined Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in Lebanon, Ohio where over 400 cheering Republicans crowded into a tiny conference room to catch a glimpse of three GOP stars, each of whom may one day seek the presidency.
Aiming to tie Strickland to some of President Obama's more controversial policies, the governors took turns bashing the health care reform bill, government bailouts of troubled industries and the sizeable federal deficit.
"Ted Strickland is doing the same thing in Ohio that Barack Obama is doing in America, outrageous spending and terrible results," Barbour charged.
He pleaded with the crowd to "stay focused" until the polls close and "then make sure we get a fair count." The most important factor in Tuesday's vote, he said, will be high voter turnout in Republican-leaning parts of the state.
"The main thing, particularly here in southwest Ohio in Warren County, is to make sure we've had the biggest turnout we've ever had," he said. "Because if you do, then this part of the state will lead John Kasich and [Republican Senate nominee] Rob Portman to great victories, and we'll pick up seats in Congress to boot."
Responding to the rally, one of Kasich's most energetic events this week, Strickland spokeswoman Lis Smith said her boss "isn't going to take a lecture from Governors Barbour, Pawlenty, and Christie on how to govern the state of Ohio."
"In fact, they could learn a lot from Ted's record of cutting taxes, removing regulatory red tape, and reducing the size of state government, all while he responsibly maintained funding for core services like education," Smith told CNN in an email.
All of the governors boasted about cutting the size of government in their home states and promised that Kasich would produce the same kind of reform in Ohio, but each brought a remarkably different political style to the stage.
Barbour's occasionally freewheeling manner was apparent from the start, when he quipped that Kasich's running mate Mary Taylor will become "the best-looking Lieutenant Governor in America."
An energetic and genial Pawlenty, meanwhile, accused Democrats of suffocating the private sector and relayed jokes about the difficulty of being a conservative in a state that produced famous liberals like Hubert Humphrey and Sen. Al Franken.
But Christie, whose blunt made-for-YouTube style and uncompromising efforts to slice the New Jersey budget have made him a national conservative darling, ultimately stole the show.
He earned a sustained ovation after grabbing the microphone, eliciting one "I love you!" from a female member of the audience. Christie was mobbed after the rally and lingered for nearly 15 minutes, posing for photos and signing autographs.
Christie said the mood on the ground in Ohio reminded him of last November, when he scored an upset victory over former Gov. Jon Corzine.
"If the people of Ohio let John Kasich down, I'm coming back, and I'm coming back Jersey style!," he joked.
Kasich dubbed Christie "the most popular governor in America," even as Barbour and Pawlenty, both sitting governors considering 2012 presidential bids, were standing next to him on stage.
As for the candidate himself, Kasich frenetically paced the stage and at one point gave his running mate a somewhat awkward fist-bump. He promised a win on Election Day and compared himself to the Biblical figure David, who slays Goliath in the famous parable.
Left unsaid was the fact that Kasich was the Goliath in the race for much of the year. The Republican's once comfortable lead in the polls evaporated in recent weeks, and both camps now consider the race a toss-up that will be decided by turning out their respective bases next Tuesday.