Kasich not ruling out presidential run in 2020 but 'there's no path for me right now'

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News
John Kasich, former governor of Ohio and ex-GOP presidential candidate, has some advice for President Trump Thursday at the Mackinac Policy Conference: Don't sumo wrestle with Nancy Pelosi. "She's pinned you a couple times."

Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday didn't explicitly rule out running in the Republican presidential primary in 2020, saying “I can’t predict what’s going to happen in my life.”

“There’s no path for me right now,” Kasich said during a talk at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference.

"I like to say all of my options are on the table, either for now or for later, and we just see how the spirit moves me and what the opportunities are," said Kasich, who twice sought the GOP nomination for president, most recently in 2016. 

The Ohio Republican and CNN commentator is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, though he said he doesn't like to criticize the president. 

 "My problem with Donald Trump — it just starts just with the issue of bringing people together and dividing people and taking advantage and then getting into his policies — I don't like many of those either," Kasich said. 

"It doesn't make me happy to be critical. It didn't make me happy not to go to the (Republican) convention. It didn't make me happy not to endorse him.

"I'm glad I endorsed John McCain, and maybe I ought to do it again when I see the story of this battleship having to be moved from somewhere off to the Sea of Japan," Kasich added to applause in the auditorium. 

He was referring to reports that the White House had asked the U.S. Navy to hide from view a destroyer named after the late Arizona Sen. John McCain while Trump visited Japan this week. 

"It's the about the most bizarre thing. I mean, it's bizarre only on top of all the rest of the bizarre things that are going on. I don't get it," Kasich continued. 

"I do think there was a lesson out of Japan. I think the president watched the sumo wrestlers, and I would warn him: Don't be sumo wrestling with Nancy Pelosi. She's pinned you a couple times. I would stay away." 

Kasich, who promoted his fifth book due to be published in the fall, served two terms as governor in Ohio and 18 years in the U.S. House.

He predicted that House Democrats won't move to impeach Trump, saying the country doesn't want it. Kasich recalled the 1998 impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton as "very, very painful" during his time in Congress.

"I remember I sat on the porch with one of my dear buddies and went over all the stuff, and it was just very difficult, but you know this was about telling the truth to the grand jury. That's what that was about," Kasich said. 

In Congress, he was friends with U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, whom he affectionately called "Freddie" on stage, saying Upton is a leader "because he looks at problems and tries to fix them." 

"I was with the governor yesterday and I said, look the best advice I can give you — and for CEOs for that matter — if you see a problem look at your different options for how to fix it and go fix it," Kasich said, apparently referring to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"If you're going to worry about the politics, then the time may come when you look around and you say, why did I do that? Why didn't I do what I knew I needed to do?" 

Kasich lambasted as "disgraceful" attempts by Congress to "take health care away from 20 million people" by eliminating or changing the Affordable Care Act, saying "that's because they're playing politics." 

His solution for fixing politics is to overhaul the laws for drawing congressional districts.

"If you're in a heavily Republican district, you've got to worry about a primary from the right. If you're in a heavily Democratic district, you've got to worry about a primary from the left," Kasich said.

"Why don't we have the districts so closely aligned that you got to worry about everyone? That you can't go extreme one way or the other because you're worried about reelection."

He praised politicians who have the conscience to vote against their party when it's wrong.  

"When I was there, there were times when we would put country ahead of our own personal gain," Kasich said. "It's disappeared." 

Moderator Daniel Howes of The Detroit News pressed him on why. 

"Human nature. I think the rise of social media that can target you. All that kind of stuff has given people voice, and I think that's good," Kasich said.

"At the same time, it's made politicians worried about who's yelling the loudest. I've always felt that if people yell loud, they don't have a lot of people behind them." 

Kasich stressed how much he loved campaigning in Michigan during his presidential bid, calling the state "Michigan nice."  

"Everywhere I went, I don't think i ever met more people who were kind. It was fantastic, and frankly if one of the other candidates had dropped out, I would have won Michigan. ... That could have changed everything," said Kasich, who finished third in a primary that Trump won.

"You're just — what do they say? Michigan nice?" he added. "You're nice people. There's a couple times a year we don't like you, but we can get over that."