Ohio Gov. John Kasich brought his underdog bid for the Republican presidential nod back to Long Island on Saturday, delivering a personal address about life and faith to a crowd of hundreds at a synagogue in Great Neck.
Kasich, who trails rivals Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz, spoke without prepared remarks in a 20-minute speech that was light on politics and heavy on biographical stories and his thoughts on religion. His Long Island appearance comes days before Tuesday’s primary in New York, where Trump leads the GOP field.
Kasich, who was raised Catholic but attends an Anglican church, told congregants that religion helped him forgive the drunken driver who killed his parents in a 1987 crash in his native Pennsylvania. “I know that if that man who drove that car could turn back the hands of time, he would,” he said.
Kasich received applause from the Modern Orthodox congregation when he said Israel is where the Jewish people “will always live throughout human history.” He also recalled “the beauty, the splendor, the history, the hope, and the future” on display in his first trip to Jerusalem in 1983.
And as he has throughout his campaign, he remarked on the many “detached, isolated, polarized and lonely” people he has met across the country and urged people to slow down and pay attention to each other.
“We live at the speed of light it seems, never seeking the time to make connections,” he said.
Before heading to a kosher-style deli in Manhattan, the governor joked to reporters that his campaign had a “secret plan” to delay the primary so he could “continue eating in New York.”
He said he chose to speak about his personal experiences rather than political issues, jotting only a few notes on legal paper on his way to Great Neck Synagogue in the morning.
“Probably some wished I talked more about policy or whatever,” Kasich said. “But that’s all I had today.”
Kasich then made a scheduled stop for lunch at P.J. Bernstein on the Upper East Side. Sitting alone at the counter, he picked at a plate of pickles, finished most of a cup of chicken soup with kreplach and had slice of apple strudel for dessert. He refused a pastrami sandwich.
“I can’t eat anymore,” he said, offering the plate to an aide. “I’ve eaten so much!”
With Matthew Chayes