CLEVELAND -- Ed FitzGerald has spent months wrestling with a tough decision. The question is "to run or not to run?"
More accurately, the Cuyahoga County Executive's choice is what office to run for -- governor or the job he has now?
He's been laying the groundwork for a possible statewide campaign, crisscrossing the state to make his name and face familiar with the Democratic faithful for a possible challenge of Republican incumbent John Kasich.
Many thought his "I'm declaring" announcement would happen by now. It's seemingly turning into a more complicated decision than the hyper-ambitious FitzGerald expected.
FitzGerald's got an appealing, if somewhat limited, resume.
He's been an FBI agent, assistant prosecutor, mayor of Lakewood and head of Cuyahoga County's new government.
He's had a productive first two-plus years heading that government.
This week, a new Quinnipiac poll gave FitzGerald a reality check snapshot where he is.
Governor John Kasich defeats all four prospective Democratic challengers by a six to ten percent margin. FitzGerald loses by the biggest margin, 45 to 35 percent.
And Kasich's popularity numbers are getting better. His approval rating is at an all-time high 53 percent.
Other prospective Democratic candidates are keeping their governor's race interest alive largely behind the scenes.
But Congressman Tim Ryan, former Congresswoman Betty Sutton, and federal consumer champion Richard Cordray all still have their names in play.
Primary or no primary, whoever the Democrats choose will be running against a governor with a strong "jobs and progress" message. Ohio's economy has gotten stronger on Kasich's watch. His government makeover seems to be getting results.
FitzGeral , or any other Democrat, would have to raise $20 to $25 million. That's way more money that he's ever collected.
Kasich is not the hot-button target he was early in his term.
He's positioning himself as a compassionate conservative. And if the legislature approves, all Ohioans would get an income tax cut to thank him for. They are more likely to notice that than paying a sales tax on more services.
Other Republicans would paint FitzGerald as a hypocrite for opposing the reform measure for the new county government he now runs. He did.
They would call him out as a job-jumping opportunist who has never finished an entire term in any office before setting his sights on another. Think shades of Josh Mandel.
Ohioans would hear about FitzGerald being an incidental part of the now-convicted Jimmy Dimora case.
And there's a very real bottom-line conclusion for a family man with four kids. He'd face a $31,000-a-year pay cut as governor from what he makes now.
Perhaps Kasich is vulnerable to the right candidate with the right message.
FitzGerald must decide if that's him.
In affairs of the heart, it's often said, "it's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."
FitzGerald acts like he thinks he can win. But in politics, "it's better to have run and lost than never to have run at all" is a slogan few would endorse.
Losers in governor's races often become answers to trivia questions.
FitzGerald doesn't want to miss a chance to win. But how good is that chance?