Another Hat in the GOP Ring: John Kasich

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As chairman of the House Budget Committee, John Kasich was the Republican behind the historic balanced budget in 1996, the one that Bill Clinton has been thanking himself for ever since. Like seemingly every other Republican, Kasich is pushing for a 10 percent tax cut -- yet he's the kind of guy who will produce credible numbers to back it up. He's a relatively hip 46, smart and a great fit for America's new age of economic health and fiscal reponsibility. So why is he running for president as if he were... Michael Dukakis? "I'm a mailman's son from a blue-collar community near Pittsburgh," Kasich said Monday as he kicked off his long-shot 2000 bid. "I got into politics because I wanted to change the world."

"Like the rest of the Republicans, Kasich is trying to represent conservatism -- and tax cuts -- with a compassionate face," says TIME congressional correspondent Jay Carney. "But his youth and enthusiasm give him a chance to distinguish himself from the Republican crowd." Kasich's chances for the GOP nod? Slim, but not nearly as slim as, say, Alan Keyes'. And Carney says the boyish, Grateful Dead-loving number-cruncher could make a lot of VP lists in a very short time. "He comes from Ohio, which is a key state, and if he shows an ability to reach voters who aren't voting -- namely the young-and-jaded group -- he'll instantly be a very viable No. 2." And that'd be fine -- look what it did for a certain young Macarena-loving techie named Al Gore.