Ohio Gov. John Kasich made a rhetorical shift on Tuesday and offered a forceful critique of his Republican presidential rivals.
The long-shot presidential candidate came out swinging in a Manhattan speech against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, who have come to dominate the primary race.
“The response for some is to retreat into the past, to yearn for the way things used to be. To these people, today’s America is only seen as a broken place. And the people who did the breaking are the other,” Kasich said.
“People with different sounding last names, or different religious beliefs, or different colour skin, or lifestyles.”
He further railed against Cruz and Trump’s “disturbing” and “whimsical” policy proposals, dinging both candidates on their trade and national-security plans.
“We’ve heard proposals to create a religious test for immigration, to target neighbourhoods for surveillance, to deport 11 and a half million people. To impose draconian tariffs, which would crush trade and destroy American jobs,” Kasich said.
Though Kasich’s advisers said the speech was aimed at both rivals, the governor appeared to take the sharpest swings against Trump, whom he had mostly avoided critiquing on the campaign trail.
“Some who feed off of the fears and angers that is felt by some of us can exploit it to feed their own insatiable desires for fame or attention,” Kasich said. “That can drive America down into a ditch, and will not make us great again.”
Kasich’s speech, titled “Two Paths,” came as he openly angles for the nomination at a contested Republican convention in July. He has picked up relatively few delegates throughout the primary race and has only won his home state of Ohio. Additionally, Kasich is running a distant third to both Trump and Cruz overall.
Most polls put Kasich ahead of Cruz in New York, where Trump is expected to dominate next Tuesday. Still, it’s unclear whether Kasich’s message is truly resonating in the Empire State.
When Cruz appeared before the same room last month, organisers were forced to fill two separate overflow rooms while some Cruz supporters milled outside. Though Kasich filled up much of the room, there were still plenty of empty seats.
After the event, Kasich snuck out the back door past most reporters and supporters. When he got into the car, he briefly took questions from Bloomberg Politics editor Mark Halperin, who joked that New Yorkers were finally getting to know that Kasich was the governor of Ohio.
“They know that my name is Kay-sik,” Kasich responded, giving the correct pronunciation. “They still think it’s Kay-sich.”