Ohio Gov. John Kasich came to Virginia to woo the state’s Republicans, scheduled to vote in a crucial March 1 primary.
But he ended up spending the day dealing with a comment he made about women.
“How did I get elected?” Kasich asked a crowd at George Mason University, recalling his first run for state senate in Ohio in 1978. “I didn’t have anybody for me. We just got an army of people, who, and many women, who left their kitchens to go out and go door to door and to put yard signs up for me.
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“Things were different,” he continued. “Now you call homes and everybody’s out working. But at that time, the early days, it was an army of the women that really helped me get elected to the state senate.”
The outcry was swift. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign sent out clips about the quote, as did left-leaning interest groups, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tweeted “a woman’s place is wherever she wants to be.”
“I completely agree,” Kasich said later when a reporter read that tweet to him. He noted that his campaign manager – a former chief of staff – his appointment to the Supreme Court and his lieutenant governor are all women.
“I am not a scripted candidate,” he continued. “I don’t use teleprompters. I don’t run around with all these notes like lots of people do. I’m real and maybe sometimes I might say something that isn’t artfully said as well as it should be but you know I’m kind of a real guy… every once in a while I’ll have to go back and make sure people know what I really mean when I say something.”
Still, the comment – however intended – came at a time of increased scrutiny on Kasich and women’s issues. He signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood this weekend.
A nursing student at George Mason University reminded him of the quote when she asked about his decision to defund Planned Parenthood.
“I’ll come to support you,” she said, “but I won’t come out of the kitchen.”
“I just think the organization has lost credibility,” he said later during a stop at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, “and at the end of the day it is about women’s health. I’m for robust funding of women’s health. I’m just not for doing it through Planned Parenthood.
He was even more blunt in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday night.
“I’m more than happy to say I’m sorry if I offended somebody out there,” he said. “But it wasn’t intended to be offensive.”
A packed event at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond Monday evening, meanwhile, drew a handful of protesters who were upset about his decision to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio. The group stood outside chanting, “Today I left my kitchen/because Kasich lost his vision.”
This isn’t the first time Kasich’s comments on women have spurred ire. In 2012, he was criticized for saying at a rally for then-GOP candidate Mitt Romney that political spouses are “home doing the laundry and doing so many things while we’re up here on stage getting a little bit of applause.” And earlier this year in Virginia, he responded to a young woman eager to ask him a question by saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t have Taylor Swift tickets.”
In all, 595 delegates are at stake March 1, with Republicans voting in states including Virginia, Oklahoma, Texas and Alabama.
Kasich is hoping to do well in states such as Virginia – with its swath of moderate voters, as well as Vermont and Massachusetts.
The day had poignant moments as well. When a woman lamented about what her autistic son would do when he aged out of the public school system, Kasich brought her on stage and wrapped an arm around her. Later that night, he reacted with shock when a woman told him about five of her relatives who had committed suicide.
“I have no idea of what to say to you,” he said, but vowed to not giving up on the issue of mental health. “This is not some welfare program,” he said.
Kasich Monday also laughed off a Rubio suggestion that Kasich did not have a path to the nomination, calling that “ridiculous.” Terry Sullivan, Rubio’s campaign manager, released a memo Sunday arguing that Kasich “has no path to the nomination.”
“I think that’s funny,” Kasich said, when told of those comments.