And Kasich got the blueprint past queasy moderate Republicans in fine candidate style: with a little coalition-building. The House's tax-cut standard bearers -- Kasich, Gingrich, Dick Armey, et al -- promised that the plan's harshest characteristics would surely be softened in negotiations with the Senate anyway, so why not show a little short-term solidarity?
It worked, and Kasich gets another notch on his budget knife. "This is his résumé," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson. "He knows how difficult it is to run for president from the chaotic House, so he needs to develop a track record of being the one true man among the scoundrels -- the keeper of the flame." Kasich's larger problem is with the political and economic tides; with the budget surplus estimated at $34 billion and counting, shrinking the government just doesn't seem as urgent as it used to.