Alabama’s Gov. Robert Bentley Endorses John Kasich for President; Says, “America Needs a Champion”

Near a statue of coaching legend Paul Bear Bryant Governor Bentley answers questions about his endorsement. (Frank Couch/
Near a statue of coaching legend Paul Bear Bryant Governor Bentley answers questions about his endorsement. (Frank Couch/

How might a man who looks like a moderate from a purple state, compared to some Republicans running for president, win a party presidential primary in a Deep South red state like Alabama?

Well here is how Ohio Gov. John Kasich began that uphill task Sunday night and especially Monday morning during a visit to Birmingham to receive an unexpected endorsement from the state’s most popular Republican, Gov. Robert Bentley:

Kasich ate barbecue Sunday night at a restaurant with a legendary name, Dreamland Bar-B-Que, where he posed for a lot of cell phone pictures and shook a lot of hands.

On Monday he praised a long ago Alabama congressman and Auburn graduate, Bill Nichols, who mentored him when he came to the Congress. He gripped a football under his arm signed by Coach Nick Saban and praised the state with these words:

“I can’t quite put my finger on why I’m emotional about this day,” Kasich told a small gathering of supporters and mostly press at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. “There is just something special about Alabama beyond (football coach) Bear Bryant. It’s a great state and it represents so much of the history of the south in America and the values we have here are reflected in the values we have in the heartland in Ohio.”

Put all that together and then add the gift: Bentley’s surprising endorsement of Kasich for the GOP presidential nomination, the first governor to endorse him and more importantly the first Deep South governor to pick Kasich from a field of 17 White House candidates that includes nine southerners.

In endorsing Kasich, Bentley said regional loyalties really played no role in his decision. He said there are some other good candidates but none as qualified as Kasich who served in the Congress where he was the powerful chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. For the last four plus years he’s been Ohio governor.

But Bentley said Kasich’s résumé was not what convinced him to call Kasich recently and offer his support and his endorsement, something Bentley did not do for any candidate in the 2012 presidential race.

Looking around the rotunda of the hall of fame filled with plaques of famous athletes and champions, Bentley said Kasich has something in common with the men and women who earned spots in the hall of fame.

“Champions believe in something more than themselves. They believe in a cause,” said Bentley.

Bentley said that today America “needs a champion.”

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SOURCE: Charles J. Dean

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