Ohio Gov. John Kasich hasn’t so much as set foot in Quicken Loans Arena this week as Republicans nominated billionaire Donald Trump for president, but he has drawn intense scrutiny this week as he’s criss-crossed Cleveland, going virtually everywhere but to the convention.
On Thursday, he said he had no regrets.
“I think you can all understand why I didn’t show up to speak at the convention by the way after what you saw last night,” said Kasich, addressing the Ohio delegates at their daily breakfast meeting.
The night before, Sen. Ted Cruz was booed at the convention for not endorsing Trump. Kasich, who has also not endorsed Trump, is in the limelight in part because he is the governor of the state hosting the convention. But on Monday, campaign manager Paul Manafort called Kasich an “embarrassment’ for not endorsing Trump. And on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump Jr. had , through intermediaries, offered Kasich the chance to be “the most powerful vice-president in history,” in charge of both domestic and foreign policy. When the Kasich intermediary asked what Trump would be in charge again, Trump Jr. said, “making America great again.” The Dispatch confirmed the report with several sources.
Kasich said he remains a Republican who support both Republican policies and Republican candidates. But, the said, his mother always taught him to stand for his principles.
“I look in the mirror, I feel good about who I am,” he said, adding “I really have no regrets about what I’ve done in my career.”
He said there’s a danger in being self-righteous by doing so, but he uses his friends and family – including his 16-year-old daughters as a gut check.
“We want politicians to stand on principle, and then whenever they do, if it’s not the principle we like we’re not so much into them standing on principle,” he said. “I can tell you, when you stand on principle, sometimes you’re alone.”
He recalled his first days as governor in 2011, when he came to office more of a congressman than a governor. His wife advised him to act like the father of Ohio, but it wasn’t until a referendum repealing the Kasich- pushed S.B. 5 – a bill which would’ve limited collective bargaining for public employees of the state – passed that he truly learned that lesson.
“We over reached,” he said. “We didn’t listen. We didn’t unify. It was really tough,” he said.
He said that experience taught him to move forward. “From that day forward figured out I needed to be the father of Ohio. That doesn’t mean you sit down at the family dinner and fight with one another. What I learned in Ohio is that you’ve got to bring people together. You’ve got to unify the family.”
Now, he said he’s focused on helping other Republicans win. He’s helped out Sen. Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio. Friday, he’ll go to Philadelphia to help out a congressional candidate in a tough race. He also plans on helping out Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
“I will live in Arizona to make sure he gets re-elected to the U.S. Senate,” he said.
Kasich led off a breakfast that also include speeches by Portman, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. Taylor hosted the event.
Bondi, who spoke Wednesday night, spoke about her personal friendship with the Trump family, including Ivanka. She said when Trump secured the nomination, she called him to congratulate him. His first question, she said, was whether her recently widowed mother was doing well.
Portman, meanwhile, urged party unity, and disputed the idea that the party wasn’t unified.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “Is there another choice? Hillary Clinton? Another four years of the Obama administration or worse? Is that a choice?”
He said the state had to echo the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers and be “all in.”
“This election is too important for us not to be all in,” he said.
Afterwards, he said the state will be crucial to not just the outcome of the race for the White House, but the for the outcome of the Senate.
“I think probably as goes Ohio, so does the country. The Senate majority probably is going to be determined by this race in Ohio,” Portman said.
He said the Democratic Party and the PAC of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, “have put in more money against me than any (other race) in the country. They’re loading up here in Ohio and they’re all attack ads.”
“Their agenda is to win Ohio, get the majority back and take this country toward a leftward lurch. We can’t let that happen.”
Randy Ludlow contributed to this report.
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