Kasich avoids Trump talk, reminisces on Mich. campaign

Chad Livengood, and Jonathan Oosting

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio — Ohio Gov. John Kasich reminisced about campaigning for president in Michigan during a speech Tuesday morning to the Michigan delegation attending the Republican National Convention, but he did not endorse presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Kasich made no mention of Trump and didn’t address mounting calls from supporters of the New York businessman to get behind the nominee.

The second-term Ohio governor, who finished third in Michigan’s March 8 primary, said the Republican Party needs to broaden its appeal to the country’s changing demographics, citing significant increases in citizens of Asian and Hispanic heritage.

“With changing demographics, we can’t keep talking to the same old people,” Kasich said. “Because there’s not enough of us to talk to. It just won’t work.”

Kasich, who suspended his presidential campaign in May when Trump appeared unstoppable, said he would travel the country this fall helping Republicans try to retain U.S. Senate and House seats.

“I’ll come to Michigan,” he said. “If I can show up and we can raise some money, come up and help some candidates, I’d be more than glad to do it.”

But Kasich made no mention about whether he would campaign for Trump.

Kasich has not endorsed Trump and is not participating in the official Republican National Convention in his own state, which is highly unusual for the highest-ranking Republican official in a host state.

“I hope you have a great rest of the convention,” Kasich told Michigan delegates.

State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, who introduced Kasich and co-chaired his Michigan campaign, said he hopes the Ohio governor and other reluctant Republicans get on board with Trump.

“If we’re all unified behind our nominee, we believe Republican leadership does the best thing for all the people to lead this country in the right direction,” Meekhof said. “I think everybody’s going to get there. I really believe they will. But it’s difficult.”

The West Olive Republican noted the GOP field at one time included 17 presidential candidates, meaning party loyalists may have formed any number of allegiances in the run up to the general election.

“I could have voted for any of the 17 that we originally started with, but this is the one we have now,” he said of Trump. “He’s our guy now.”

Public opinion polls suggest Kasich remains popular in Ohio, a swing state that has proved essential in the past half-century for Republicans to win to capture the White House.

The usually press-friendly Kasich took no questions from reporters and spent most of his 15 minutes talking about his time traveling Michigan. He was the only presidential candidate to venture as far north as Traverse City and Marquette.

When Kasich arrived in Marquette the weekend before the primary, the Ohio governor said he instructed his staff to put down their cellphones. “I told everybody, ‘Turn them off. Look at where we are.’ It was like a winter wonderland,” he said.

Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort unloaded on Kasich this week, suggesting the governor is listening to advisers who are already trying to position the 64-year-old former congressman for another presidential run in 2020.

“He’s looking at something that’s not going to happen. He’s hurting his state. He’s embarrassing his state, frankly,” Manafort said Monday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

When reporters tried to ask Kasich about the Manafort comments, the Ohio governor ignored them.

Kasich is not the only big name who is skipping the Republican convention. Both former Bush presidents are sitting out due to concerns with Trump. The 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney, has been a vocal opponent of the New York businessman and is vacationing in New Hampshire.

Tuesday night’s prime-time session will feature House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and include the party’s formal nomination of Trump for president. Former primary candidates Dr. Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also will speak.

“Most of the Republicans who aren’t coming (to the convention) are people who have been part of the past,” Manafort said on MSNBC. “People who are part of the future of the Republican Party are going to be here and participating in the program.”


Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Twitter: @JonathanOosting