For an outgoing, two-term Republican governor who only two years ago won the Ohio presidential primary, a final state GOP fundraiser should be almost a victory lap, a chance to reflect on the last eight years but when the GOP faithful gather in Columbus on Friday, Governor John Kasich won't be there.
That is due in large part to the fact that the guest of honor will be the man who has emerged as Kasich's main political rival since 2016, President Donald Trump.
Kasich was one of the few Republicans not to endorse Trump in 2016 general election and has remained one of his staunchest policy critics since Trump took office. Beyond that control of the state party has shifted since Trump's victory away from Kasich with the replacement of longtime ally Matt Borges with key Trump supporter Jane Timken as party chair.
Just last week Trump's for Ohio Campaign Manager and now Co-chair of the RNC Bob Paduchik wrote a blistering op-ed critical of Kasich's attacks on Trump.
"President Trump is now coming into John Kasich's territory and ruining his farewell party," said News 5 Political Analyst Dr. Tom Sutton of Baldwin Wallace University.
The Trump Ohio swing Sutton said is also evident on the party's fall ticket.
"Even here in Ohio with Jim Renacci's candidacy for the U.S. Senate, strong Trump supporter, invited by Trump to take the place of Josh Mandel as the candidate. We're seeing here very much the same kind of dynamic that we are seeing across the country," Sutton said.
Both Kasich and Trump endorsed Troy Balderson in the special election this month to fill the open seat in Congress in Kasich's home 12th District. Balderson eked out a narrow victory over Democrat Danny O'Connor in the heavily Republican district. The two will face off though again in November with that race being called by many a toss-up.
In a back and forth on Twitter last week the president saying "the very upopular Governor of Ohio... hurt Troy Balderson's recent win by tamping down enthusiasm." The attack prompted a gif response by Kasich of a laughing Russian President Vladimir Putin. A move that likely sparked the writing of the Paduchik op-ed.
After skipping the Republican National Convention in his own state that nominated Trump it should come as no surprise Kasich would opt to skip the Trump led state GOP fundraiser. Other Republican office holders, Sutton said, who may be loyal to Kasich find themselves caught in the middle.
"You cross the president at your peril. We saw that with Mark Sanford who lost his renomination to be the congressperson from South Carolina, there are some other issues involved in that but he was critical of President Trump. Those that criticize the president have become the outcasts of the party," Sutton said. "And the most prominent voices are either leaving office or when they're running they're facing stiff challenges from other primary opponents who wrap themselves around President Trump's policies and that is the lay of the land right now in the Republican Party."