Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke before a packed town hall at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on Monday night showing every sign that he is in the presidential race for the long haul even as the Republican field narrows.
Kasich, who finished fifth in Saturday's South Carolina primary,
discussed issues ranging from the federal debt, and immigration reform to mental health and Medicare, and positioned himself as the obvious choice for those voters who put experience at the top of their candidate wish list.
"At the end of the day," Kasich told the crowd, "I've always believed voters are going to choose somebody who can land the plane. Not somebody who talks about it, but somebody who's done it."
Not everyone agreed. Protesters, organized in part by the Democratic Party of Virginia, greeted attendees outside the event. Some chanted "my body, my choice," a reference to a bill Kasich signed on Sunday that effectively bans public funding of Planned Parenthood in Ohio.
Other protesters picked up on remarks Kasich made earlier Monday at a rally in Fairfax County, where he said he owed his first win to elected office to housewives who left their kitchens to campaign for him. The remark lit up Twitter, and the small group of Richmond protesters incorporated it into a chant: "Today I left my kitchen, because Kasich has no vision."
Local student activists aren't the only ones pushing back against the Ohio Governor.
In the aftermath of the South Carolina vote, pressure from establishment Republicans has mounted on Kasich to quit the race in order to stop the momentum building behind Donald Trump's presidential bid.
That pressure is sure to grow after results of Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Kasich trailing Trump in Ohio 31 to 26 percent among likely Republican primary voters.
In a discussion of those results, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said: "A Kasich Ohio win is crucial to the Republicans trying to stop the New York businessman's nomination.
"If Trump can defeat Kasich in his home state, that would be an impressive demonstration of his strength in a state that is just now getting attention," Brown said. "But Trump's lead is just 5 points, certainly not large enough for him to breathe easy."
Most Virginia voters, who go to the polls on March 1, haven't made up their minds about Kasich.
A recent Christopher Newport University poll of likely Republican primary voters in Virginia showed 39 percent of them have no opinion of Kasich.
Quentin Kidd, who conducted the poll for the university's Wason Center for Public Policy, said: “Governor Kasich has a lot of undecided voters, but not much time left to make an impression on them."
In the same poll, taken before former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush withdrew from the race, Kasich was tied for fourth place with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 7 percent.
Kidd told AMI Newswire that the dynamics of the race in Virginia will hinge on decisions made by the voters who originally supported Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
"If I want to be anybody in the race right now, I want to be Marco Rubio," said Kidd. "He's within striking distance in Virginia, and there is a huge gap between the top three - Trump, Rubio, and Cruz - and the rest of the field."