John Kasich wants to be the anti-Trump.
Speaking to an overflow crowd of supporters and students at a University of Richmond town hall, the Ohio governor and Republican presidential hopeful said Monday that if people are looking for "a warrior," he's "not their guy."
"I'm a leader," Kasich said. "I'm not playing to the cheap seats. If that's what it takes to win, then I'm not going to be president."
Kasich was in Richmond as part of a campaign swing that included announcements of his Virginia campaign team.
Topping the list of endorsers is former Virginia congressman Tom Davis of Fairfax County and his wife, former state senator and 2013 GOP lieutenant governor candidate Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. Delegates Chris Peace, Ron Villanueva and Sen. Emmett Hanger will serve as Kasich's state campaign co-chairmen.
Kasich took questions on
Medicaid expansion, defense spending and immigration from the packed audience. But the real topic of the day may have been current GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
While never mentioning Trump by name, Kasich was careful to distinguish himself from The Donald's colorful and unguarded campaign style.
When asked whether he had the fire and emotional drive to capture the nomination, Kasich said "tone matters."
"I'm not interested in hot rhetoric," he said. "The American people are sick of the attacks and negativity. It's better to see people to work together, and be respectful of one another."
Virginia Foundation for Research and Economic Education president Chris Saxman, who helped organize the event, told AMI Newsire that Kasich was addressing solid conservative ideas. "Sending more power to the states, less emphasis on Washington, more freedom: Those are the ideas that get conservatives excited."
As Ohio governor, Kasich expanded Medicaid, a move Republicans in Virginia's House of Delegates have successfully blocked.
In Richmond, Kasich defended the controversial move. "If other states want to try something else, let's see what they do," he said. "But they can't put their heads in the sand and do nothing."
On defense spending,
Kasich said the nation needs to spend more, but not indiscriminately. It's a perennial issue in Virginia, where the economies of Hampton Roads and northern Virginia remain heavily dependent on the military.
"We can't throw money at the problem," said Kasich, whose 3.1-percent support in Real Clear Politics' average of polls puts him in seventh place among GOP candidates. "We have to have reforms and we have to spend responsibly."
On immigration, the issue that has helped boost Trump to a commanding 22.8-percent in the same average, Kasich said more needs to be done.
"We need to secure the borders, something we left undone when Ronald Reagan addressed the issue in the 1980s."
Kasich said he was in favor of a guest worker program, but also a system of fines for those currently in the country illegally.
"If they pay the penalty for jumping the line, they can stay," he said. "It's not a path to citizenship. We're legalizing them."
The Trump campaign did not respond to phone calls and a tweet.
But Old Dominion Democrats slammed the Ohio governor.
In a press release Tuesday, Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Susan Swecker said, “John Kasich is wrong for Virginians. From putting wealthy special interests before the middle class, decimating women's health care choices and even failing to support marriage equality, Kasich is out of touch with the Commonwealth."