Republican presidential candidate John Kasich officially ended his bid for the White House in an address from Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday evening — a decision that all but assures Donald Trump’s position as the GOP nominee.
In a speech at 5 p.m. ET, Kasich was emotional and characteristically mercurial as he offered his parting words.
“I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me, as he has for everyone. And as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith that the Lord will show me the way forward and fulfill the purpose of my life,” Kasich said.
He thanked everyone who volunteered for his campaign and outlined the joys that come from campaigning for the nation’s highest office.
“My mother used to always say, ‘Don’t forget the volunteers, Johnny.’ They were always the ones who gave me the fuel, the octane,” he said.
Choking up at some points, Kasich praised the many states he visited and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet so many supporters across the nation.
“When we hit our 100th town hall, it was remarkable. Those beautiful towns,” he said.
At one point while campaigning, for instance, he said he told his staff to look up from their smartphones to appreciate the “magical” winter wonderland of New Hampshire before them.
He said he was bowled over time and again by the kindness and warmth of his fellow citizens.
“We all remember that hug in South Carolina from that young man,” he said. “He just wanted to give me a hug … and the country marveled.”
Kasich said that humans are hardwired to help others and receive help in kind: “It’s a virtuous circle.”
“The spirit, the essence of America, lies in the hearts and souls of us,” he said. “You see, some missed this message: It wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t a great sound bite.”
Earlier Wednesday, many speculated that Kasich planned to suspend his campaign after he abruptly canceled a planned press conference in Virginia. This was followed by several reports — from NBC News, CNN and other media outlets — confirming the rumors.
The night before, Kasich appeared to be moving forward. After a disappointing finish in the Indiana primary, his campaign released a memo saying that the night’s results would not change his plans to keep pushing ahead.
“Our strategy has been and continues to be one that involves winning the nomination at an open convention,” the memo reads in part.
This apparent commitment to stay in the race was reinforced by a Twitter post parodying the “Star Wars” opening crawl. It argued that he would have a better chance than Trump of beating likely Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus appeared to accept Trump as the inevitable face of the GOP race in a tweet Tuesday night after the real estate magnate’s win in Indiana.
Calling Trump the “presumptive nominee,” Priebus tweeted, “We all need to unite and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton.”
In an interview Wednesday with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota, Priebus returned to the unity message.
Gov. John Kasich pauses to read his notes as he speaks at The Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens on Wednesday, in Columbus. Ohio. Kasich announced the end of his White House bid. (Photo: John Minchillo/AP)
“We’ve got a candidate that is winning in every single state. I mean, a week earlier, I don’t think he had lost a county in six states,” he said of Trump. “So I mean, look, it’s time to unite.”
But he stopped short of saying Kasich should drop out when Camerota asked if that would help unify the party.
“You know, obviously, that’s up to John Kasich,” he said. “He’s got his own platform and his own agenda that he’s running, and I’m going to leave that up to him.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz suspended his campaign Tuesday night after the Indiana primary results rolled in. Early on, Cruz resisted publicly attacking Trump in the hope that his supporters would join him after the Trump media frenzy waned. But as Trump continued to dominate the primaries and as the field of candidates thinned, Cruz went after the frontrunner, receiving the nickname “Lyin’ Ted” from the master-brander in the process.
Kasich had been a long-shot candidate ever since the first Republican presidential debates last summer. The stage was already overcrowded with establishment favorites and political outsiders. As the election dragged on, it became clear that his campaign had more or less turned into a spoiler aimed at preventing Trump from getting the requisite 1,237 delegates to clinch the party’s nod without a contested convention.
He was scheduled to speak in Virginia at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday but never appeared. His run for the Oval Office will come to a close with only one state primary win: his home state of Ohio.