ROCKVILLE, Md. — Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a town hall of supporters that history — along with buyer’s remorse — is on their side if they can push the GOP nomination to a contested convention.
“We’re just going to keep plugging this … and we’ll see where this goes,” Kasich said, adding that in the 10 times that the GOP nomination has gone to an open convention, “seven times the person who was not leading got picked.”
He said a man greeted him at a Philadelphia diner that morning as “Gov. Lincoln.”
Backers who filled the community center gym voiced support for the governor in his quest, but expressed concern that his message was not getting through the Campaign 2016 din.
One woman suggested that Kasich go on Saturday Night Live or The Tonight Show for needed exposure.
Kasich quipped that he would go down to the Kennedy Space Center, take a short flight, land in the water, “be fetched out of the water by a big Navy ship and have a press conference.”
“If you are a voice of positive, people don’t want to hear that,” he said. “…But at the end of the day, people don’t want to live there They don’t want to live together in tension, negativity and conflict.”
He cited a recent New Hampshire poll asking Republican primary voters who cast ballots earlier this year about their current choice for the party’s nomination at a contested convention. Trump beat Kasich by more than 20 points on Feb. 9. But now, those voters pick Kasich 26 percent to 22 percent for Trump.
“Running on the positive side of things doesn’t always get you the attention,” he said.
Kasich is lagging behind Donald Trump in the polls in Maryland, where the governor was just endorsed by The Baltimore Sun. Trump took his campaign away from the Beltway to the west side of the state over the weekend.
Kasich didn’t mention Trump during the townhall, which began after the real-estate magnate called the governor’s eating habits “disgusting” at a rally in Pennsylvania this morning.
The governor later told CNN that he wasn’t going to respond to Trump’s insults. “The Trump people are very desperate; they’re very fearful that we’re going to end up in an open convention,” Kasich said.
At the town hall, the governor focused on his priorities of a balanced budget — “we know our children shouldn’t have to be penalized for the sins of spending today” — and driving down the national debt, because “when debt goes up, job opportunities come down.”
Asked about the need to support law enforcement in the era of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, Kasich said strife in places such as Baltimore and Ferguson “comes fundamentally from people not understanding each other or not talking to each other.”
The president, he argued, “needs to bring together the law enforcement community and people in the community who feel like they’re not being treated fairly.”
The governor got questions from several youths in the audience, including an 11-year-old boy asking what he’d do to help the environment — “I’m the one Republican who believes there is climate change,” Kasich stressed — and a teen whose family was going through the long legalization process and questioned the fairness of legalization for those who came to the country illegally. Kasich said highlighted the value of bringing “more fairness to people who sometimes get the shaft.”
Kasich railed against thinking that the federal government will step in and solve all problems.
“Are you waiting for the presidents to come in and fix your schools… you want to get your schools fixed? What are you waiting on?” he said. “You got a problem with drugs in this community? Go fix it… you want to win the battle on drugs, go do it.”
One man in the audience said he was pitching Kasich to other Republicans, but wanted to hear stronger positions from the governor on Common Core and immigration.
Kasich noted that his state enacted higher education standards, but “local school boards are those that develop the curriculum to meet the high standards.”