John Kasich seems to know the rap against him: He's cranky, unfocused, and impulsive. But ahead of the scrutiny of a possible presidential run, the Republican governor of Ohio is testing out a new disciplined persona.
"Everything you say now is under a microscope so I've got to think more like a scientist," he said Friday in an interview with Bloomberg Politics' Mark Halperin from Mitt Romney's E2 Summit in Utah.
That meant parrying when asked if he felt that he was competing with other candidates and hopefuls at the event, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has cast himself as a proven conservative election-winner.
"The minute I say something about him, then it’s like I’m going after him," Kasich said. Later, he asked: "How am I doing on this discipline?"
"I’ve got a lot of energy and I need to know how to dose it out," he added, saying he'd learned that after a brief presidential run in 2000.
He likewise held back on policy prescriptions, saying a military commander would have to say how many troops the U.S. should send to combat ISIS as part of a coalition, not him.
During his address at the summit, he concentrated on his biography, touting his meeting with Richard Nixon as a college freshman, his adherence to Reagan's philosophy since before his 1982 election to the House, and his work on balancing budgets. He joked about his time as a Fox News host, saying he was a "giant television star."
He only returned to concrete policies only when outlining his fiscally conservative policies as governor and his willingness to leave a pathway to legal status for immigrants who are in the country illegally.
On taxes, too, he was firmer with Bloomberg. "The most important thing to do" for growth, he said, is not reform of the income tax code for individuals but "to give these companies incentive to invest instead of buying back stock and keeping their profits in Europe."
Despite making moves toward a run, Kasich also nearly shrugged off the ambition.
"If I... get in, try my best, and I don’t win, you know, I would have tried my best," he said.
And he couldn't resist making a comparison to state hero LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers superstar who led his team to the NBA finals.
Both Buckeye Staters "want to take it to the hole and make sure you score," Kasich said. "Very competitive. Have fun too."