Associates of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, known in Washington as a budget whiz kid, are working overtime to get him firmly placed in the top tier of the 2016 GOP potential nominees, they tell Secrets.

Kasich, the former chairman of the House Budget Committee when the federal budget was last balanced, is being pushed as a practical conservative with more experience than the senators expected to run for president and less controversial than New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Up for re-election next year, Kasich has seen his approval ratings rise with Ohio’s economy. Under the youthful governor, the state’s “rainy day fund” went from from 89 cents to nearly $1.5 billion, 174,800 new jobs were created, and an $8 billion budget deficit was erased while taxes were cut by $350 million.

Pal and former Rep. Tim Penny compares Kasich to former President Reagan. “Real leadership and a new direction is exactly what Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, could offer an America ready for change,” he said.

Noting that Kasich has years of Washington experience to draw on, Penny added, “In 2016, after eight years of politics and misleadership, voters will understand the value of electing someone who offers true executive leadership and a record of achievement. I think Kasich fills that bill.”

Lou Zickar, editor of the moderate Republican Ripon Society's magazine, added, "There's a simmering intensity to John Kasich that suits the tenor of the times. You can see it in his concern over the budget, and you can see it in his compassion for the poor. You can even see it in his decision to ban the letter 'M' before the Ohio State-Michigan game. Kasich wears his heart on his sleeve, and he's not afraid to show it."

Kasich is currently polling ahead of his 2014 Democratic challenger and a long-time presidential campaign strategist noted that winning Ohio has been the key to victory since no Republican has won the presidency without the Buckeye state.

In a recent interview, former Rep. Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” also cited Kasich as one of the can-do Republican governors who would fit easily on the list of GOP candidates.

In a note to Secrets, Penny sized up Kasich’s plusses:

As governor, Kasich has, in fact, turned deficits into surpluses, implemented business-friendly policies that have energized Ohio’s economy and created good-paying jobs, improved the delivery of state services while saving tax dollars, and instituted education reforms that are delivering results. He has done this by focusing on what matters – and setting politics aside. He has built partnerships with others of good will – regardless of party affiliation – in order to get things done that need doing.

In addition to his accomplishments as a chief executive in Ohio, John knows Washington and he knows the world. He spent eighteen years on Capitol Hill rising through the ranks to chair the House Budget Committee where he helped enact the first balanced budget in decades. His tenure on the Armed Services Committee provided keen insight about America’s defense needs and our role in the world.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at