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.
Ohio, my home state, send them Republicans back home. NO MORE BUSH SOUP LINES.
200 people! Obama's and Strickland's rally in Columbus last week drew 35,000 on a Sunday night.
Oh please please please let Phewlenty stay in Ohio. Minnesotans are so so so so so so so glad he THINKS he can be a presidential candidate and wants to leave the state we don't know what to do.
Plus I love when we handcuff reporters, threaten liberals (thanks Glenn Beck) and stomp on the necks of liberals.
These people are stars the same way Anna Nicole Smith and Paris Hilton are stars – being utterly talentless, they are famous for being famous.
Let's just call this election "The Empire Strikes Back"
Ohio is sticking with Gov. Strickland! It will be a close race.......... funny .........how in the summer a "GOP Tsunami" was predicted and now........ all races are tight. Hmmmm.
America's a whole lot smarter than Teapublicans thought!
Like Joe says just laugh at them . Vote all repos out . we can do it. Lets go forward. Wing nuts one and all. vote democratic or you will be sorry
I see the presidents approval rateing is going up. So is the economy. The latest statistics show this. Of course if the repos get in next week they will say they did this. Don't forget how they repeatedly voted NO for everything. They cater to big business and the rest of us can just go – ourselves. They need the tax hikes for the rich. But whine all the time. Hikes where suppose to end so it is not something the president did. And we can see they haven't helped the economy. Look at all the wing nuts running. Ol Carly in Calif who is all about big busniess The one thats not a witch Independent Paul . Don't go to his rallys you might get kicked in the head. The bagger in Alaska. Watch out for the Roves of this world they will rat you out to foreign governments or the Chaneys who will shoot you and not bother to say sorry or the newets who will lie and cheat on you. This is the voice of the repo party. Old man Mc caine or the Orange man and token steel. Wake up vote the repos out or this country will go backwards. The middle class will be no more if you elect thes wing nuts.
GOP chants "tax cuts for the filty rich," deny sick children healthcare, return to the failed Bush policies.
Oh, wow! Desperation is clearly what John Kasich is telegraphing to Ohio citizens. He's losing his lead and the best thing he can do is invite "Uncle Cornpone" Barbour, Tim "No Taxes; No Services" Pawlenty, and Chris "Big Mouth" Christie to campaign for him. Talk to the citizens of Mississippi, Minnesota and New Jersey. They will tell you that each of their Republican governors is driving their state into the ditch. And this is the best John Kasich can do to try becoming governor of Ohio? Please.
Apparently Christie and Haley Barbour weren't standing on the same side of the stage! It would have caved in otherwise!
Ohio goes Republican and with that ends Obama's chance for a second term. Obama needs to get with Jimmy Carter and see who his shrink is and get a early start. He is lame duck for the next two years and gone in 2012. We made history he was a flash in the pan now let's get Hillary in and clean up this mess both Bush and Obama have made.
The GOP is bashing the President for doing work on problems they never touched. They just do not care about the needs of everyday people! The GOP is only accountable to 2% of Americans. Don’t forget that in the voting booth! They laugh out loud behind your back that the voter can be so easily manipulated as to again and again vote against their own best interest. They say openly that they will not work (“NO, HELL NO”) or do anything for YOU! Many of the candidates they present to you on Tuesday are an insult to your intelligence.
Please, go out and vote! But, vote responsible, informed and smart. Don’t get fooled or scared by the GOP/TP!
It would be a disappointment if Kasich lost in Ohio, but the most important thing is to save our nation from Obama's impossible dream of spending and wealth-spreading, which will destroy us.
That is why all Americans whose minds remain intact MUST vote Democrats out of Congress Tuesday.