Trump critic John Kasich eyes 2020 presidential run, talks future of GOP

  • Former Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich (left) endorses Chris Sununu (right) for New Hampshire governor during a news conference in Concord on Aug. 29, 2016. AP file

For the Monitor 
Friday, December 08, 2017

The Republican Party is increasingly becoming the party of President Donald Trump, but that isn’t stopping one of the President’s biggest GOP critics from speaking his mind.

“The president is normally the titular head of the party. But that doesn’t mean we have to walk in lockstep,” said the former Ohio congressman who’s serving his second term as governor. “So as far as I’m concerned, look, I don’t get any instructions from some office somewhere that tells me how to think like a Republican.“

There’s constant speculation that Kasich may challenge Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. He didn’t close any doors, saying “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

But describing himself as a “conservative problem solver,” the governor argued that “I’ve got a right to talk about what I think it means to be a Republican as much as anybody else does.”

Once a longshot for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, Kasich concentrated his efforts on New Hampshire and came in second to Trump in the the first-in-the-nation primary. He kept his campaign alive deep into the primary calendar and unlike Trump’s other rivals for the Republican nomination, Kasich never endorsed Trump for president.

Kasich met with President Trump in the White House weeks after the inauguration. He said he had one phone conversation with the President a few weeks later, “but since then that’s been about it.”

Kasich, a regular over the past year on the network Sunday show talk circuit, remains a vocal critic of the President and his administration.

“I think the foreign policy is kind of a mess right now. And we tend to be going it alone. We’ve become anti-trade,” Kasich said. “These are not the things that I think fly high for the Republican Party. It doesn’t really represent the party that I’ve strongly believed in in my lifetime.”

After dropping his White House bid, Kasich returned to New Hampshire in August of 2016, to campaign with then-Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, who was at the time battling for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Sununu’s older brother, former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, is a longtime Kasich friend and adviser.

Asked if he’ll come back to New Hampshire next year, to help campaign for Sununu’s gubernatorial re-election, Kasich said he’ll return “if I’m asked to come in and help. I’m always willing to lend a hand.” 

“I get a lot of requests now, which is nice,” he said. “I don’t mean that arrogantly. But it’s nice and we try to sort through the place where I can do my job here (in Ohio) and yet still have a significant impact.”

Kasich chuckled that he’s got much more national name recognition now that when he was running for president.

“It’s sort of funny. Since the election, I think more people know me now than they did even when I was getting out,” he said.

And as he always does when speaking with Granite State reporters, Kasich highlighted his affection for the state and its people.

“I’d love to come back to New Hampshire. I love the place. How could I not. New Hampshire treated me so great. I have so many friends and people that I’m really affectionate about that live in New Hampshire. I hope I come back,” he added.

Kasich did come back in April, as part of a book tour. That stop fueled early speculation that Kasich was mulling another run for the White House. When it comes to 2020, Kasich said “everyone wants to know ‘what are you going to do.’ And I think nobody believes me when I tell them I do not know what I’m going to do.”

Kasich faces a two-term limit as Ohio governor, and has one year left in office.

“I want to go out as strong as I can,” he said, touting that his state’s “up almost a half a million jobs. Our fiscal situation is really strong. But the other thing I’m really pleased about is those who are the least among us, at least we’ve tried to develop enough resources to make sure that Ohio is not just for one group of people and not everyone.”

Whether he runs for president or not, Kasich says he’s got more to accomplish on his political to-do list.

“I still want to have a voice. I still have a political organization. I want to be able to participate in the national discussion and debate,” he said. “I just don’t know how that’s all going to work. We’ll see.”