Gov. John Kasich
Presidential hopeful Gov. John Kasich celebrated an important win in his home state on Tuesday evening, definitively defeating G.O.P. runaway, Donald J. Trump. Following the much-needed victory, Kasich held a town hall meeting at Villanova University, where he addressed approximately 700 students, faculty and community members. Over 300 additional guests viewed from a simulcast in various locations across campus as the Ohio governor danced onto the podium to Cincinnati band’s Walk the Moon’s hit single, “Shut Up and Dance.”
Kasich was introduced by Villanova Student Government Association’s Vice President, Patrick Long, a senior math and Latin major who issued the initial invitation to Kasich’s campaign. The university won’t endorse or invite candidates to campus, but student organizations can, in conjunction with university administration. “For a couple of days I didn’t believe it, until the contract was signed,” Long said.
Long’s efforts resonated with the community, as students and other attendees began lining up outside the student center four hours before Kasich was set to take the stage. The line extended well outside the doors and around the building before the doors opened.
Kasich related to the many students in attendance, opening the meeting with a story of his first semester at Ohio State University, where he majored in political science. Kasich described meeting with the university president to discuss his dissatisfaction with his living arrangements. “He told me the next day he was going to go to Washington and having a meeting with President Nixon. I said, ‘Well sir, there’s a number of things I would like to talk to him about also, could I come,’” Kasich said, earning a laugh. “They can’t tell you no if you don’t ask and they can’t tell you yes if you don’t ask.”
The advice didn’t stop here. “Knock on the door, and knock it down if you have to. When you graduate, or if you’re trying to get an internship, don’t take no for an answer. Be a pest. Be a polite pest, but be a pest,” he said.
Following his light opening quips and earnest advice, Kasich transitioned to political policy, emphasizing the need for budget reform. “I’m running for president. I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do about all your student debt,” he said, addressing a key concern among young voters and in the election as a whole. “I’ve got to figure out how to ramp up this economy and get it going again so you can get a job. I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do to make sure you believe that you have a better chance at seeing a social security check than a UFO.”
“Knock on the door, and knock it down if you have to.”—John Kasich
Kasich also emphasized the importance of modernizing government. “Everything is changing in our lives. Transportation, communication, medicine—the changes that are coming in medicine are going to be unbelievable. The only thing that isn’t changing is the government.”
Among the attendees, and one of the first in line, and perhaps one of the future voters he was addressing, was 11-year-old Kaitlin Spering, who scored a front row seat, alongside her father. Even at her young age, she said the presidential race is a hot topic among her peers. “I was thinking of what Martin Luther King did,” Spering said, when asked whether the event was what she expected. “I’m really excited.”
These town hall-style gatherings have characterized much of Kasich’s campaign, which until Tuesday, was faltering. To date, it remains his sole primary victory, and in a coveted delegate state. The intimate setting of the town hall seems to suit his campaign, unlike the large rallies some of his opponents favor.
“I like town halls because you get to know the judge,” Kasich said, emphasizing the importance of the grassroots efforts in his Ohio win. “This is about how we want our country to feel.”
A native of McKees Rocks, Pa., Kasich ran for president in 2000, abandoning his campaign in July, 1999, before ultimately endorsing President George W. Bush for the nomination. Following that first campaign, Kasich entered the private sector, serving as managing director of Lehman Brothers, a now defunct global financial firm. The candidate was also a host and commentator for FOX News, with his own show, From the Heartland with John Kasich, which aired from 2001 to 2007. Kasich is also the author of three New York Times best-selling books, Every Other Monday, Courage is Contagious, and Stand for Something: The Battle for America’s Soul. In 2011 Kasich was elected governor of Ohio, defeating Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland. The governor was re-elected in 2015, defeating democrat Ed FitzGerald.
“I’m not going to be any more overtly political than to say help if you can. I love being here, this was a great honor for me, being here,” Kasich said, towards the end of the assembly. “We need harmony in this country. And we need to remember we’re American before we’re anything else. And finally, I want you all to know that as I continue to pursue this campaign, I am not going to take the low road to the high ground.”
That tune may change going forward, whatever his hopes. Following Tuesday’s victory in Ohio, Kasich still trails his fellow Republican candidates, Donald J. Trump, with 673 delegates, and Senator Ted Cruz, who’s accumulated 411 delegates, to Kasich’s 143. The win in Ohio undoubtedly proved instrumental in keeping his campaign afloat, going into the spring and summer, something that Senator Marco Rubio failed to do in his own state of Florida, where he was handed a decisive loss, forcing him to suspend his campaign.
As it currently stands, Pennsylvania voters will likely make a significant impact when they vote in the G.O.P. winner-take-most primary, being held on April 26. In the meantime, Kasich will likely continue relying on these town hall meetings to rally support and connect with voters in the hopes of ramping up for a long slough with his opponents.