Arnold Schwarzenegger Endorses Kasich for President

by | March 7, 2016 AT 11:50 AM

By Darrel Rowland & Randy Ludlow

Saying John Kasich was an "action hero" who "kicked some serious butt" in Washington before, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed him Sunday for a return engagement.

"We need John Kasich to now take charge and be at the White House," said the former bodybuilder, who was in Columbus for his namesake sports festival.

A campaign rally attended by several hundred behind Wells Barn at Franklin Park Conservatory kicked off an intense effort by Kasich to win his home state in the March 15 primary.

The former congressman told the crowd "we're going to do well" in Tuesday's Michigan primary, "and then we're coming here."

"I think it's important that in Ohio we not only send a message to the country but we send a message to the world that positive efforts in politics and not name-calling, sliming or big suggestions about how you're going to fix things, that a positive message and raising the bar for our kids will win in this country."

Kasich trailed Donald Trump by 5 points in the latest poll of Ohio. But state Republican Chairman Matt Borges said the Ohio GOP is mounting an effort similar to the one that helped sweep the governor to a historic re-election victory in 2014. Several volunteers were recruited at Sunday's event to make calls and help the Kasich ground game.

Speaking before Kasich and Schwarzenegger arrived, former Congresswoman Deborah Pryce said, "This isn't an anti-Trump rally. It is an anti-Democrat rally, because we all know that John Kasich is the only Republican who can beat Hillary Clinton." If Kasich fails to win Ohio, his campaign likely is over.

Later, in Toledo, Kasich's bus rolled into the SeaGate Convention Centre before hundreds of people munching on campaign-provided Tony Packo's chili dogs.

Kasich asked -- for a third time -- for their votes. "Why don't we straighten this whole election out and let the governor of Ohio ascend to the White House, okay?" he asked to cheers.

The governor was asked if he could explain his reasoning behind not releasing his income tax returns prior to 2008 -- returns that would have reflected full years of earnings from his position in a two-man Columbus office with Lehman Brothers, the failed investment firm that went bankrupt with $22 billion more in debts than assets.

"No, I can't. We do pretty much what everybody else has done," Kasich replied. Told he was incorrect, he said, "I'm not going to waste my time with that. We released seven or eight years of tax returns. We had your (Dispatch) people come in when I was running (for governor) in 2010 thinking I got some big payout which I never got, so that's silly."

A pair of GOP presidential hopefuls from the U.S. Senate, Marco Rubio, of Florida, and Ted Cruz, of Texas, released tax returns dating to 2000 and 2006, respectively. Former candidate Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, released 33 years of returns. Trump has declined to release his returns, saying he is under an IRS audit.

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