Ohio Gov. John Kasich trails far behind front-runner Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican presidential race, but on Monday he became the first of the three to campaign on Long Island before New York's April 19 primary. Here are five takeaways from Kasich's appearance at Hofstra University:
1. His message to Trump – and why he’s staying in
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Kasich’s response to Trump’s call that he drop out? “I’ve got news for him – I’m going to get a heckuva lot of his voters, that’s what’s going to happen,” he said. He told the first voter who asked a question, “I’m dropping in, I’m not dropping out.” That led into Kasich’s broader electability pitch: He asked why he would drop out when he’s the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. (The latest RealClearPolitics poll average shows Kasich beating Clinton by 6 points if they match up.)
Kasich also acknowledged “legitimate concerns” Trump voters have – and said he knows how to fix the problems they care about, Newsday’s Laura Figueroa reported.
2. Can 'boring' win?
Kasich described himself as a candidate who has “been wandering around in total obscurity for five months.” He also pointed out that he doesn’t say “wacky things” as he campaigns. “I’m saying these are the things we need to do to fix the country. And you know what that is? Boring. So I’ve chosen to live in the boring lane because I think that’s the constructive way to fix the country,” Kasich said, noting that he’s survived so far and was standing there on the stage.
The Ohio governor has won only one state – Ohio – but his resilience might allow him to survive long enough to get to the convention, where anything could happen.
3. ‘Do you share my anger?’
One man asked Kasich, “Do you share my anger?” in regards to how the country is going, including with political correctness. Kasich’s nuanced, roundabout answer said a lot about his campaign – and the challenges it faces.
“I think being polite is a lot better than being rude,” he said. “Now, the fact that I can’t say 'Merry Christmas' is absurd, OK? I’m going to say 'Merry Christmas,' OK?” Kasich said there used to be more consensus about how to live in this country, but “some of that has broken down” due in part to the erosion of Judeo-Christian values. He emphasized a return to consensus.
Kasich said he sometimes gets upset, but said he's a "pretty happy guy." "I actually feel pretty good about life,” he said. That positive pitch goes against a tidal wave of voter anger in the 2016 campaign.
4. Will Kasich’s message resonate on Long Island?
As Newsday’s Lane Filler noted in Monday’s edition of The Point, “Kasich argued that what could truly affect our lives and the nation for the better would be a return to personal responsibility, trust, common sense and, really, an idealized version of 1958.” He expressed a desire to “go back to a little bit of a simpler time,” and challenged voters to tackle problems themselves and not to wait for the president.
Kasich best fits the mold of the Republicans “who traditionally appealed to suburbanites,” Filler wrote. “He was definitely in the right place Monday to deliver his message. The question is whether Long Island Republicans are still in the right place to hear it.”
The latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Trump with far more support among likely Republican primary voters across the state than Cruz or Kasich. Trump led the field with 56 percent, with 20 percent supporting Cruz and 19 percent backing Kasich.
5. Another slice of the campaign
Will Kasich’s pizza blunder on the trail last week cost him a few votes? The candidate addressed this at Hofstra, saying of his chances in New York, “I think I’m going to do very well here, and the reason is I am going to overcome that first picture of me taking a bite of pizza with a fork.” Kasich may get credit from some voters for learning from his mistake, but one Long Islander told me on Twitter he didn’t think so. @lepton939, of North Woodmere, said the miscue would “be tough to overcome; in this town we don't eat Pizza with a fork; no way, no how.”