NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Gov. John Kasich introduced himself to the Conservative Political Action Conference as a fighter against the establishment who wants Americans to live their “God-given special purpose.”
Kasich was introduced as “great leader” by Ron Christie, a former assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney, who described the Ohio governor as his mentor.
The governor started describing his early Reagan campaign work and compared himself to the 40th president: “The establishment never liked him … why? Because we’re change agents… we don’t take orders from lobbyists or special interests or those who work on K Street.”
Kasich spoke about his time on Capitol Hill, from the Gingrich revolution to when he was chairman of the House Budget Committee.
“Year after year after year I fought the establishment … because they wanted the status quo,” he said.
On Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kasich said, “When he looks into my eyes all the way to my soul, you know what he’ll see? A freedom fighter.”
He reflected on other congressional accomplishments, adding, “Frankly, I’m glad we’re not in D.C. because every time I go there I break into a cold sweat.”
He then touted accomplishments in Ohio, including welfare reform, followed by “get over it.”
“The mentally ill should not be sleeping under a bridge or living in a prison — they have a right to get on their feet and live their God-given purpose,” Kasich said. “The working poor — isn’t it time we reward them for working hard and give them a pay raise? We want our developmentally disabled to be fully integrated and we’re working toward that.”
The governor stressed that he previously gained electoral support from more than half of union households. “Bringing people together works,” he added.
Kasich then moved into more of a personal inspirational tone, directed largely at the young people in the crowd. “No one has ever been made like you and no one ever will. Do you understand that, young lady?” he directed at an audience member. “You were made special for a special purpose.”
“Don’t wait for someone to show up and fix the problems where you are – fix them yourself… The greatness of our country is not waiting for another government program.”
Kasich said Americans should be left to live their lives, calling on Washington when needed. “If you need me, I’ll come running to your neighborhood,” he said.
On escaping any Donald Trump insults at Thursday night’s debate: “Who knows what kind of a nickname he’d give me.”
“You will not beat Trump by smearing him,” Kasich said, but by having a better vision and record — “and not just political gibberish.”
He said he believes there will be a brokered convention. “Can you think of anything cooler than a convention?… You have to do it right, you can’t have a bunch of people in smoke-filled rooms.” He expressed concern that “these connected interests would dominate.”