After South Carolina, Only One Governor Left in Presidential Race

by | February 22, 2016

By Jessica Wehrman

One day after a fifth-place finish in the South Carolina Republican primary, Ohio Gov. John Kasich insisted his campaign was going to "just keep going."

"We never expected to finish at the top in South Carolina," Kasich said on CBS' "Face the Nation. "I think frankly we've exceeded expectations there."

Kasich finished behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who dropped out of the race Saturday night. But he noted that he finished second in New Hampshire, and that he is now the only governor -- current or former -- still in the GOP race.

"I'm starting to get known in this country for the first time and the message is being heard," he said. "These guys have spent $50 million in this campaign. I've spent about $15 million. The fact of the matter is a lot of the money they spent has been designed to hammer me -- negative ads against me."

He said he feels confident about several of the states that vote March 1, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Virginia. He said those states award delegates on a proportional basis, which means he can still compete even if he doesn't win.

"I don't have to win these places," he said. "I just have to hang in there and continue to gain momentum."

Kasich made his case on the same day as the other GOP candidates canvassed the Sunday talk shows, all arguing that South Carolina voters had expressed strong support for their candidacies.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued that Kasich was making his case in Michigan, while Rubio was focusing on a more national effort. He said he was scheduled to make stops in three states on Sunday alone. "I know John Kasich is going to spend his week in Michigan and make that his priority," Rubio said.

Kasich, however, is scheduled to start his week in Virginia, where he will make three stops on Monday.

Rubio said the race had narrowed down to three candidates -- billionaire Donald Trump, himself and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Cruz, meanwhile, argued that he has done something no one else has been able to do -- beat billionaire Donald Trump in a Republican primary.

"We're the only campaign that has beaten Donald Trump and that can beat Donald Trump," argued Cruz.

But Kasich argued that a recent poll indicated he was the only GOP candidate to beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by more than any other Republican candidate for president.

"Two weeks ago, people in South Carolina had no clue who I was," he said. "We're the engine that can. Everybody ought to just relax on this."

He said he "didn't play in South Carolina," but said he has still risen to third place in some national polls "without spending really much money."

"I get money, continue to put my grassroots together and you're going to see a great result," he said. "If people want to consolidate, they ought to consolidate my way."

Kasich separately defended his assertion that Muslims should not be barred from entering the country. Trump has suggested doing so in order to prevent terrorism.

"We're a melting pot," he said. "As long as people have positive and good intent, they ought to be able to come.

"Just because someone happens to be of Muslim faith doesn't make them a terrorist or doesn't make them a threat to America," he said.

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)