First things first: Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants you to know who he is.
The Republican presidential candidate admits that he does not enjoy the same name recognition as party frontrunner Donald Trump but says popularity and outrageous statements should not dictate who reaches the White House.
“My greatest challenge, Katie, is really not against anybody else. My greatest challenge is to become known. My greatest challenge is for people to hear me, because they don’t,” Kasich said in a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric.
Nothing was off the table Friday when Kasich, who has been struggling in the polls, sat down with Couric to discuss Islamist militants, Middle East refugees, his campaign and why Trump is a bully who is not prepared to take on presumptive Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton or lead the free world.
Kasich, 63, said that he dealt with many bullies growing up in the blue-collar town of McKees Rocks outside Pittsburgh, so he was not scared when the Trump campaign threatened to sue if a pro-Kasich super-PAC included any false information or misrepresentations of his brand in advertisements.
“He’s trying to bully me. I mean — everybody knows he bullies everybody. And look, I’m not after Donald personally,” he said.
Kasich repeated several times throughout the conversation that he does not want to be sidetracked by personal attacks. He thinks everyone should instead think about who has the necessary experience to bring change to Washington and address the major issues facing the United States.
After the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, the threat of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) is on the minds of many Americans. Citing his two young daughters and the 11.5 million Ohioans, Kasich said that he shares concerns about the country’s national security but has plans for addressing the threat of jihadi.
In the war against ISIS, for instance, Kasich said he would support enforcing no-fly zones, deploying ground troops, temporarily suspending the relocation of refugees in the United States and forming a coalition like the U.S. had during the first Gulf War.
“I’m not going into personal attacks on him [Trump],” Kasich said. “But I am going to attack policies or criticize policies. It’s also important, Katie, that when I say what he falls short with that I talk about what I’m for too.”
Couric brought up that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz introduced legislation to block refugees from several Middle Eastern countries. She asked if there was a direct correlation between this sort of worldview and Cruz’s recent rise in the polls.
“You know, I think, again, you know, polls go up and down, Katie, and I think at the end, people will figure out who they’re for,” he said. “But I will say that, you know, Republicans have never won the presidency without winning Ohio. Now I’ve won twice statewide in Ohio, the last time — by 30 points. It was the second-largest electoral victory in modern Ohio history. If you come to the state as a divider, you will not win. You have to come to the state as a uniter.”
Couric brought up that in 2015 Ohio had taken in 3,040 refugees from countries like Bhutan, Iraq and Somalia — places with terrorist activity. But Kasich maintained that he does not trust the federal government at this time to properly vet refugees from Syria to make sure terrorists do not stream in.
He said that he has actually been criticized within the Republican Party for being too lenient with refugees — having “too big of a heart.”
“I’m not doing this on the basis of — of politics. I am doing this on the basis of what I think is a reasonable proposal,” he said. “And once we can have everybody certify it’ll work, then I’m open to it. But that’s another day.”
According to Kasich, his success has actually worked against him so far: He is not well-known in part because he is the governor of a successful state in the Midwest and does not say ridiculous things to get attention.
After Trump hosted NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” the Kasich campaign filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that he receive equal time — 12 minutes — on the major television channel.
When Couric asked what he would do with the time, Kasich said he would simply explain who he is, what he has accomplished and what he wants to do, in a clear way so everyone could hear him.
“Experience does matter. It all gets down to who can fix the country, who’s had the experience of doing it and who could bring the change,” Kasich said. “Because what we don’t want, we don’t want an old fuddy-duddy, we don’t want somebody that goes in and then it’s like business as usual. I’ve been a reformer all of my lifetime.”