Presidential candidate John Kasich, the first Republican hopeful to campaign on Long Island, told a crowd in Huntington Monday night he was persisting in his underdog bid because “nobody is going to have enough delegates to go to the convention and win on the first ballot.”
Kasich — the Ohio governor who earlier in the day appeared at Hofstra University and assured supporters, “I’m not dropping out” — stood before a crowd of about 3,000 at the Paramount theater in Huntington Village and detailed his plan to wrest the nomination from front-runner Donald Trump and Trump’s closest rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, at a contested convention.
“I do understand the fear that Trump voters have and I think, maybe some of these evangelicals [who largely support Cruz] can come toward me,” Kasich said to a questioner. “I need to just get better known and it’s happening now.”
New York’s April 19 primary is one of the largest remaining delegate prizes, and though Trump is heavily favored in the race, Kasich predicted the billionaire businessman would fall short overall of securing a majority before the Republican convention in Cleveland.
He then noted that Cruz, like him, could no longer mathemetically gain a majority.
“So here’s what happens,” Kasich said, describing a scenario in which convention delegates — many of whom will be elected officials and party loyalists — see his experience and temperment as best-suited to take on Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner.
“Once you become a delegate to the convention, all of a sudden the weight is on your shoulders: ‘Who’s going to win in the fall and who’s got the experience, the record and the vision to run the country?’” Kasich said.
“So I think it’s going to be very cool — our young people are going to spend less time on Justin Bieber and more time wondering how we pick the president, and I think it’s going to be fantastic,” Kasich said to laughter.
Earlier Monday, Kasich addressed an audience of more than 700 at a forum at Hofstra’s David S. Mack Student Center and visited Theodore Roosevelt’s home at Sagamore Hill.
Despite trailing badly in most national polls, Kasich said at Hofstra that he’s staying in the race to “save social security” and “cut taxes” to promote small business growth.
“Why would I get out, if I’m the only person who beats Hillary in the fall,” Kasich asked.
At an appearance in Wisconsin Sunday, Trump had demanded Kasich drop out of the race, accusing him of “littering up the process.”
Kasich said Monday at Hofstra that Trump was frightened because, “I’m gonna get a heckuva lot of his voters.”
Trump has won 736 delegates of the 1,237 needed to secure the GOP nomination, Cruz has 463 and Kasich, 143. But speaking of New York, Kasich joked, “I think I’m going to do well here, because I’m going to overcome that picture of me” eating pizza with a fork, referring to online scrutiny he received during a visit to a Queens pizzeria last week.
A statewide Quinnipiac Poll released last Thursday showed Kasich trailed Trump and Cruz among likely voters in New York, although Kasich had a significantly higher approval rating than either candidate.
Fifty-six percent of voters said they would vote for Trump in the primary, 20 percent for Cruz, and 19 percent for Kasich, with four percent undecided.
Forty-three percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Kasich, compared with 30 percent for Trump and 26 percent for Cruz.
“I may have been ignored for about six months of my campaign, because I spent my time taking the high road to the highest office, not the lowest road,” Kasich said.