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John Kasich says he’s antidote to Donald Trump

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich meets with audience members after speaking at a campaign stop at Solvay Youth Center in Syracuse on Monday, April 18, 2016. Credit: AP / John Minchillo

SCHENECTADY — Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday tried to appeal to what he considers Republicans’ better nature in a small town hall meeting in which he presented himself as the antidote to Donald Trump.

“I think we all have to live a life a little bigger than ourselves. . . . What the Lord wants us to do,” Kasich said. “The spirit of our country, the joy, rests in you . . . and we have to believe in America, we can change the world.”

Kasich has tried to emphasize a can-do attitude about the economic and other problems facing the country. He has said that is a distinction between him and his Republican foes, billionaire Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, both of whom Kasich said complain a lot, but offer few solutions.

Kasich, in answer to a Trump supporter’s question, said he is not trying to “stop Trump,” just offer an alternative of optimism.

But then Kasich rattled off Trump plans such as building a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to stop illegal immigration, deporting immigrants who didn’t enter the country legally and deporting Muslims.

“Are you kidding me? And you’re asking me why I’m in the race?” an exasperated Kasich said. “I’m not pandering to you to get your vote.

“There is a sense that somebody is getting something that I’m not getting. I get that,” Kasich told the voter. He said he understood it when he didn’t get student aid for college because both his parents worked.

“There are answers to this,” he said, turning to Trump’s hard line on illegal immigration. “We have to finish the wall.”

But, he said, immigrants already thriving in the U.S. will only have to “pay a fine, back taxes and move on” with their lives in America. “No more excuses, protect the border . . . and solve the problem.

“It’s not hard to get through these things, it’s just that politics get in the way,” Kasich said. “You just need to remind people they are Americans before they are Republicans and Democrats.”

For example, he said college student loan debt is out of control, and the high cost will destroy four-year colleges. He talked briefly about creating “community service” to pay off some college student loan debt. “I am open to that,” he said.

Kasich said fixing America’s problems isn’t dependent on a president, even if it’s him, or on Congress or Albany. Instead, he said, change depends on each person in the audience.

“This is not what you expect to hear from me,” he said. “I will tell you the truth.”

“What a president can do is remind all of us of our potential,” Kasich said.

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