February 18th, 2016
10:59 PM ET

RUSH Transcript: Governor John Kasich//CNN Republican Presidential Town Hall Columbia, SC

RUSH TRANSCRIPT, Mandatory credit: CNN 


COOPER:  And good evening, everyone.  Just two days from a make-or-break primary, South Carolina Republicans still have questions.  Tonight live across the country online and around the world, our second town hall from the first primary state in the south.  The final chance for voters to get answers face-to-face, straight candidates.  

ANNOUNCER:  Tonight, three candidates, three remarkable life stories, three cases for why South Carolina Republicans should help make them president.  


BUSH:  I'm proud of my dad, George H.W. Bush.  I am proud to be George W. Bush's brother as well.  


ANNOUNCER:  Jeb Bush.  Once the favorite, fighting his way back.  


TRUMP:  We will make America great again.  


ANNOUNCER:  Donald trump.  Riding high, trying to close the biggest deal in American politics.  


KASICH:  We've got a plan to go the whole distance.  


ANNOUNCER:  John Kasich, son of a mailman, promising voters after finishing second in New Hampshire that he can deliver Down South and stand apart in a sometimes bitter campaign.  

Tonight, a chance to put aside the put-downs and face the real concerns voters here have with the South's first primary just two days away.  


BUSH:  We need a president with a steady hand.  



TRUMP:  We're going to do it ourselves.  We're not going to take this stuff anymore.  We're going to make America great again.  



KASICH:  I'm not going to spend my time trashing a bunch of other people and living in the negative lane.  


ANNOUNCER:  This is an "Anderson Cooper 360 Republican Town Hall."  Voters seeking answers.  A chance to drive the debate before making a choice that could make history.  

COOPER:  Good evening, everyone, from the University of South Carolina School of Law auditorium here in the state capital of Columbia.  

capital of Columbia.

COOPER:  Just two days to go until primary day, and still plenty of voters have yet to decide in this state, same as last night in Greenville.  

Tonight will be conversational, not confrontational.  Tonight, we're gonna talk with Governors Kasich and Bush and Mr. Trump one at a time, and they'll talk one-on-one with the voters in this room, the voters in the state and around the country.  

We're simulcasting live right now on CNN, CNN en Espanol, CNN International, CNN Go and American CNN Go.  We're also live on American Forces Network, the Westwood One radio network and CNN's Sirius XM channel, 116.  Welcome to everyone watching and listening tonight.  

In the audience here in Columbia, people who tell us they will be participating in Saturday's Republican primary.  Some have made their decisions.  Some are still undecided.  

They came up with their own questions.  We have reviewed the questions to make sure they don't overlap.  I'll ask some questions as well.  But tonight, like last night, is really about the voters getting to know the candidates.  

So let's get started.  You all ready?  


All right.  Joining us, Ohio governor and pride of McKees - McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, Governor John Kasich.  


Hey, Governor.  Welcome.  How are you?  Have a seat.  Well, thanks for being here.  

KASICH:  Did I have a choice?  

COOPER:  Well... 

KASICH:  No, it's great to be here.  So much better than a debate.  (OFF-MIKE) right?

COOPER:  ... yeah.  Yeah, there's a lot - a real intimacy to the room, so - and I know you like town halls.  You and I have talked about this a lot.  A lot... 

KASICH:  (inaudible) done about 120 of them at this point, but... 

COOPER:  ... yeah.  

KASICH:  ... I'm getting good at them.  I hope tonight I do OK.  

COOPER:  But you have a... 

KASICH:  That's a joke.  You can laugh.  


COOPER:  ... I - I actually want to start with something that happened earlier today, because you had a really remarkable moment at a town hall earlier.  

And I want to play that for the folks at home and also the folks in this room, because it really shows kind of the things that kind of happen in a town hall, and I want you to talk about your experiences.  Let's just play that.  


QUESTION:  Like over a year ago, a man who was like my second dad - he killed himself.  And then a few months later, my parents got a divorce, and then a few months later, my dad lost his job.  But - and I was in a really dark place for a long time.  I was pretty depressed.  

But I found hope, and I found it in the lord and in my friends.  And now I've found it in my presidential candidate that I support.  And I'd really appreciate one of those hugs you've been talking about.  


KASICH:  (OFF-MIKE) give you strength and protect you, (OFF-MIKE) who you are (ph), OK?  Thank you.  


COOPER:  It's an extraordinary moment.  

KASICH:  It's been happening to me all over.  I had a lady, maybe last night, epileptic.  Told me about seizures.  "Please help us."  You know, people talk about these diseases.  "Please help us with this."  

A man drove from New York to see me in New Hampshire, and he was crying at the end of the town hall, hugging me, and he said, "I should have warned my son about testicular cancer, because now the cancer is in his lungs."  

He said, "and I - I have a tape where you talked about hope."  And I said, "sir, let it go.  You're not responsible for this."  And he left, and he called somebody, and he said, "I felt like there was something lifted off of my shoulder."  

A lady at that same town hall was sitting way in the back, and we were talking about the problem of drugs.  And she finally - you know, it was like mechanical stuff.  You know, well - the things that we've done.  

And she raised her hand.  She said, "my daughter's been sober for 11 months."  And I looked, I said to the people, "do you know what it's like to be a mom and to have a - a daughter, 11th months -  11 months sober?  You don't know what's going to happen tomorrow.  You walk on eggshells, and you just pray that my kid's gonna be OK."  

Anderson, I've seen it everywhere.  It's one of the reasons why - you know, I love to talk about the conservative economic policies, but one of the things that I felt, and I've said in the campaign, is we all need to slow down a little bit.  

There are a lot of people out there who are lonely, and they're looking for a place to tell people about their issues.  I mean, could you believe that - that young man?  

COOPER:  Does it change (ph) you as a - as a person and as a politician, hearing people's stories?

KASICH:  It's definitely - it's - it has slowed me down, and I have - and many of you, or some of you, have been at my town halls where I've talked about this. 

 talked about this.  

KASICH:  You know, the strength of America is not some guy or woman coming in on a white charger here to solve our problems.  Anderson, America, the glue of America, is right here in this room.  It's in our communities, in our families.  We need to slow down.  

And then, we've got to carry out our God-given destinies and potentials and gifts.  And yet it's definitely changed me because it's slowing me down.  And - but, you know, I've learned so much from - listen, everybody here.  You've got to celebrate other people's wins, and sometimes you've got have to sit with them and cry because that's what we need in this country.  

Let's get the economy going.  Let's rebuild it.  Let's get it going.  We can deal with wages and fix Social Security and balance the budget and fix the regulations.  But I also believe that the country works best when it is strong from the bottom up, not from the top down.  

And you mentioned my little hometown where I was born, Mckees Rocks (ph).  We didn't wait for somebody to come in and help us, we worked together.  And that's what we've got to get back again.  So if I can send the welfare programs and the job training and health care for the poor and I can send, you know, the education programs, then it's up to us.  It's up to us to rebuild this country and renew our spirit.  

You know, the spirit I don't think is going to be renewed by - look, you can be helped by a president.  You know, Reagan said it was morning in America.  He inspired us.  But what really inspires us are the stories of people who are just like us who change the world.  And I don't mean to go on, but this is a big, big part of what we need to think about as Americans.

COOPER:  We've got a lot of questions on specific issues from the voters, many of whom are undecided in this room.  And we're going to get to those.  

I want to ask you a couple of topics that are in the news today and also just a political question overall.  Just in terms of where you are in the race, you've been running hard, you've been campaigning hard.  You - certainly, you have South Carolina, you have Nevada.  You're looking forward to Ohio, to Michigan.  I know you're kind of - 

KASICH:  South.  

COOPER:  - charging toward the south.  

KASICH:  Virginia, Mississippi.  

COOPER:  Do you - do you worry, though, about losing momentum if you don't, you know, place in the top here?  

KASICH:  You know, I don't really worry about much.  I just go do my job.

COOPER:  Really?  

KASICH:  No, I don't, because it's been such a privilege to get even this far.  To be able to get out and see the crowds and - that's worth the price of admission being able to hear that young man, and we're going to go to Georgia.  We're going to go to - we're going to try to get them to spend some - 

COOPER:  No matters what, you're going to go on from here?  

KASICH:  Oh, yes.  Look, and we're - I'm going to be here tomorrow campaigning all day, then we're going to head up to Vermont, Massachusetts, then Virginia on Monday.  I'm going to be in Mississippi, Louisiana.  We're going the distance, Anderson.  


KASICH:  And here's the thing.  People - when I - first of all, they didn't think I would do well in New Hampshire, as you know.  And we did well.  I mean, we finished second, and in Dixville Notch, I beat Donald Trump by 60 percent.  


COOPER:  There's nine voters there.  

KASICH:  Don't tell anybody, but it was 3 to 2.  But, you know, we had at one point - you know, six months ago, we had six people at a town hall, and I come down here the day after New Hampshire, we got 500 people, we had 50 RSVPs and everything changed.  So it's just pretty amazing.  You take it in stride, you keep your feet on the ground.  And people thought I'd do 1 percent or 2 percent here.  I think we're going to do better.  If I don't do better, I'm blaming you.  I mean, I'm telling you now.  


COOPER:  You were an altar boy as a kid.  I'm wondering when you heard the pope today talk about Donald Trump - and for those who don't know, Donald Trump (sic) said a person who thinks only about building walls wherever they may be and not of building bridges is not Christian.  That is what the pope said.  It's not the gospel.  Were you surprised at the pope weighing in on this?  And what did you think of it? 

KASICH:  Well, first of all, I'm pro-pope, OK?  Put me down in the pro-pope column.  And I don't - I've seen the whole - 


- really.  I mean, come on.  Look, I don't know exactly - I read the whole quote, and it's a lot longer than that.  And look, this is a guy who said when somebody asked him about somebody's behavior that wasn't consistent with what they thought the scripture was, he said, who am I to judge?  

I mean, this man has brought more sense of hope and more about the dos in life than the don'ts.  I mean, when you think about religion, before we get to the don'ts - because when you mention religion, people get thought bubbles, like, oh no, he's coming in to tell me what I can't do.  Why don't we think about what we can do, which is about humility and loving your neighbor and, you know, all that kind of stuff.  

And this guy has been so humble.  And if you really want to understand this pope, a friend of mine, Dr. Barrett (ph), told me one time if you want to understand him, read a book about St. Francis, because he is the essence of humility and he has opened the walls and the doors of the church to lots of people who didn't understand it.  

Now here's what I will say.  We have a right to build a wall, but I've got to tell you, there are too many walls between us.  We need bridges between us if we're going to fix the problems in Washington because all they do is have walls.  


And I just think we need to get these problems solved.  

COOPER:  I want you to meet a voter.  This is Clara Smith (ph) from here in Columbia.  She's got a question.  She's undecided.  She's leaning toward you, though, Governor. 

KASICH:  Oh, good.  Make the question easy, would you?

QUESTION:  Hi, Governor.

Republicans receive a bad rap for being uninterested in the working poor.  I'm a Republican and I certainly have a heart for them.  What would you as president do to help these people out that are working two or three jobs that can barely feed their children at home?  They certainly adhere to the Republican principles of pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, but they're barely getting by.

KASICH:  Well, the one thing we want to make sure is they have healthcare, right?  And that's a critical part for the working poor.  But look, it all gets down to training and skills.  And one of the things that we have to recognize in this country today is we have to have life-long learning and we have to keep training ourselves for the jobs that exist today, and the jobs that exist tomorrow. 

But I've got to tell you, when you think about these working poor, especially if it's a woman, and her husband walked out on her and she's got a couple of kids, we've got to look at the child care.  We've got to think about the child care tax credit.  And we've got to get employers to begin to realize that, you know, give this person a chance.  Give them a chance to be able to move up.  Because if you get stuck, then it doesn't work.

But one other thing I think we all need to realize, look, I was involved in balancing the federal budget.  I spent 10 years of my life to get there in Washington, fighting everybody including Republicans, Democrats.  I've always been a guy shaking up the system.

And when we got there, we began to see significant job growth and opportunity for people.  As governor, I went in.  We were, you know, we had lost 350,000 jobs.  Now, we're up over 400,000 jobs and our wages are growing faster than the national average in Ohio.

So we need robust economic growth, because that helps everybody to rise.  And how do you get it?  Common sense regulations where you're not snuffing out small businesses, because they are the engine of job creation for some of these young people here.  They're going to create more jobs than the big companies.

Secondly, we need to have tax cuts for businesses and for individuals because that spurs economic growth.  And finally, we've got $19 trillion in debt.  We need to move to get this budget under control.

Those three things, coupled with one other thing, and that is to get people trained for the jobs they're going to - that exist today and tomorrow.  And that's called workforce.  You get those three things done, though, at the top - regulatory reform, common sense lower taxes, business and people, and balancing a budget, you will see an explosion.  

And when I was in Washington, we saw the country's job picture explode, and the same in Ohio.  And what I want to do is just take that formula that works and take it back.  And we know that it works, but you have to have discipline to carry it out.

OK?  But we have to be sensitive to these - to the folks that are really in a tough spot, you know, working two jobs.  Think about that mother; gets up early in the morning; gets the kids off to school; goes to work; comes home; makes dinner.  They're the heroes.  They're really - these single women with children are the real heroes in America, in my opinion.

So, thanks.

COOPER:  Thank you for your question.

KASICH:  Yeah.

COOPER:  And Governor, if you could stay in the blue...


KASICH:  Oh, I have to stay on the blue.

COOPER:  Well, just better lighting and cameras - for our cameras.

I want you to meet Ashton Gotschall (ph).  He's a law student here at the University of South Carolina.  He says he's undecided.  He's thinking about Senator Cruz, Senator Rubio and yourself.

QUESTION:  Governor Kasich, my older brother is an officer in the Marine Corps and is preparing for his first deployment overseas.  As his younger brother, I have always looked up to him and he's been a constant inspiration in my life.

If you were elected president, how will you make sure that our military men and women are only deployed into situations where our national security is at risk?

KASICH:  Yeah, that's a really good question.  First of all, you're right about that.  We should employ - or deploy our military whenever the national security risk is to the United States; that when we think that we're being threatened.  And frankly, when we go, we ought to go, take care of the job, and then be able to come home once we finish it.  

Getting in the middle of civil wars is not something that I've ever favored.  Look, I was - I was on the Defense Committee for 18 years in Congress.  I saw President Reagan rebuild the military.  I saw the wall come down.  I saw the first Gulf war.  And I was called in the Pentagon by Secretary Rumsfeld after 9/11.  And you learn a lot through that process of what this all means.

So, look, what I will tell you is sometimes we can support people that have the same aims as we do.  For example, I had called Senator McCain and Boehner well over a year ago and said we need to support the rebels in Syria.  But I would not want to get in the middle of a civil war in Syria, any more than I wanted to get in the middle of a civil war when we were in Lebanon.

I do think we have to go and defeat ISIS.  And I have to tell you, the coalition to do that should look amazingly like what we had when we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait in the first Gulf war.  Those are Muslim Arabs, and our friends in the West who can all come and take care of business.  And then once the business is taken care of, and things settle a little bit, come home and let them sort it out.

sort it out.

KASICH:  Nation-building, getting in the middle of civil wars is not a place for the United States military, in my opinion.  We do have to rebuild the military because it has run down.  And I have a plan to put $100 billion more in the military.

But I've got to tell you, we can't be paying - you know, I was one of the people that found the hammers and the screwdrivers and the wrenches that cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Do you remember that scandal that happened?  

We have got to clean up waste wherever it exists so that the resources go to people like your brother in the front lines.  

So we go when it really matters to our direct national interest.  We can support people who support our similar aims.  No nation-building.  Get the job done.  Come home, and be a leader in the world.  And have people's backs.  OK?  

COOPER:  Thank you very much for your question.  


COOPER:  Governor, over here is Mary LaFave.  She's a lawyer in Lexington, South Carolina.  She's undecided.  She has a question that should resonate with many in this state.  

Go ahead.

QUESTION:  Thank you, Anderson.  

Governor Kasich, I have a question involving a woman's issue that will be important to the voters in this state.  The state of South Carolina leads the nation in incidents of deadly violence against women.  As president, what will you do?  What steps will you take to address the high rates of violence against women in this country?  

KASICH:  Well, we have to have a war against that.  And I know that they won a Pulitzer in one of the major newspapers in this state.  And - down in Charleston.  In fact, they endorsed me today which was really a wonderful thing to have.  

And the lady actually - one of the reporters actually took me to the wall and showed me the Pulitzer that they won from saying that there was a time in this state where it was easier to hurt a woman than it was to hurt an animal.  

And they've begun to clean that up.  And we put a lot of time into those kinds of issues in our state.  I'll tell you another thing we worry about, sexual violence on a campus.  

And I've noticed that time ago.  And I said, there has got to be a place for young students, young women to be able to go where they can do things in confidentiality, where there can be a rape kit that can last because sometimes women don't want to move right away, but after a month or two they might want to move forward with some type of a prosecution.  

They should tell their story.  But, I mean, think about a woman - I've got these two 16-year-old daughters.  Could you imagine having somebody beat up your daughter or beat up your mother?  We have to have an all-out war against this.  

And you know what, that's a very severe criminal act.  And as president, you know, look, these laws are going to fundamentally be at the state level.  But it doesn't mean that a president can't use a bully pulpit.  It doesn't mean that a president can't speak out on some of these really significant moral issues.  

And I will do it.  I don't always have to make a law to get somebody in the legislatures to begin to pay attention to these issues.  

Let me also tell you, we took on the issue of human trafficking.  I don't know what you know about that, but there were in my state like 1,000 people who were - I was told by a Democrat who had walked out on my first state of the state address, I was like, why did she get so mad at me?  

She stormed out.  She came back a couple months later to have a meeting with me.  And I said, what can I do for you?  She said, well, there's a problem with this human trafficking with the number of children that are trafficked.  

She said - I said, well, how is it going for you?  She said, I haven't been able to pass anything.  I said, well, what if we pass it?  And she looked at me.  And she stared at me.  And I went, hello?  Are you still with me?  Of course we're going to pass it.  

And so we have changed the laws around human trafficking where actually the woman who has been called a criminal has now been determined to be a victim.  And now we're putting the pimps in jail and making sure the women can be rehabilitated in our state.  It's a wonderful thing.  


KASICH:  And, look, I want to say, my wife Karen, who may even be watching tonight, you know, we've got these two 16-year-olds, she may be watching.  She has been in the CATCH court in our city of Columbus, and we take women who before would have been discarded, we raise them up.  

She goes to the graduation ceremonies.  They have their ceremonies in the governor's residence.  This is a great, great progress.  

You know, a lot of these issues get ignored.  The issues affecting the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the working poor, the issue of domestic violence, human trafficking.  See, when we get that economy moving and growing, then we have an obligation, a real moral obligation to turn to those who live in the shadows and give them a chance to live out their God-given purpose.  

So thanks for the question.  And you work with me, all right?  You want to come to Washington and work?  We can put you there.  

QUESTION:  I'd love to.  

KASICH:  OK.  Thank you very much.  


COOPER:  Governor, this is William Hodge (ph).  He is an attorney here in South Carolina.  He says he's leaning toward Rubio but he does remain undecided.  


QUESTION:  Governor Kasich, being a Southern Baptist and an attorney here in South Carolina...

KASICH:  Is that consistent? 


QUESTION:  That's what my question is getting to.


QUESTION:  It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between my moral convictions, and the letter of the law and what I'm required to do.  If you were given the opportunity as president to nominate someone for the Supreme Court, which I believe the next president will have the opportunity to do so, would you nominate someone who will rule and vote based on their moral convictions, or would you be willing to put someone on the court who takes legal reasoning, and makes decisions even if it doesn't coincide with their personal beliefs?

KASICH:  Well, look, I've appointed well over 100 judges in Ohio.  In fact, even appointed a judge to the Ohio Supreme Court who happens to be a woman who's done a fantastic job.  What we try to look for is we want you to be a conservative.

We don't want you to make law, we want you to interpret the law.  That's what it means to be a conservative judge.

And, secondly, you've got to be beyond reproach, in good character, you know?  I mean, everybody in their life at some point did something dumb, right?  I mean, we know that, but overall, we want to look at how your temperament, we want to look at your attitude of fairness, and at the end of the day it's your approach to whether you make law, or whether you interpret that law as it relates to the constitution.

In terms of the moral - you know, people say, how do you decide things?  Well, if I got to decide something, I'm not turning to the scripture to figure it out, but also, you know, your faith can also influence some of the way you look at things.  For example, with the women who were - who have been human trafficked, or the issue of mental illness.  Of course it influences your ability to think about what can we do to lift them.

But, at the end, when you're in public office you're not really there to be a preacher, you are there to be a public official, and that's the way it ought to be if you're on the U.S.  Supreme Court, OK?

COOPER:  Thanks for your question.  Governor, I want you to meet Tim Braddick, he's over there.  He's a Republican who says he's undecided.  Tim, welcome.

QUESTION:  Nice to be here.  Governor Kasich, welcome to South Carolina...

KASICH:  ... Kasich.  It's a hard name, I know.

QUESTION:  ... Welcome to South Carolina.  Just give it a little subnote here, my wife and I are both Michigan State fans.


KASICH:  Listen, I told the people in Michigan that - look, I've been through the primary up there in Michigan.  Let's just put everything aside, and get along.  Afterall, I came down here after Clemson beat the Buckeyes a few years ago.  That's still rubbing us raw up in Columbus...


QUESTION:  ... Right.  My question is - it has to do with Obamacare.  The healthcare system where the candidates have, in the debates, in their interviews have said that they are going to repeal Obamacare if they are elected to office.  Honestly, to tell you the truth, for me Obamacare ended up being a God-send because of my conditions.

KASICH:  Yes sir, go ahead.  I'm listening.

QUESTION:  I worked for a company in Michigan for 34 years before my wife and I decided to move down here to South Carolina.  In moving down here I continued working for that same company, but in the process we found out that we could not transfer our medical insurance to South Carolina.

In reviewing the options here in South Carolina in the South Carolina health pool, we found where the rates were in excess of $2,000 dollars in that.  So, as we were forced to do, we ended up going with Obamacare because that was the best option for us at that time.

What I would like to know is what are your specific inputs to what you're going to substitute for Obamacare if you're elected.

KASICH:  It's obviously a critical question, and there's a complicated answer that I do want to give you.  We've got very good healthcare experts in our state.  In fact, we took our Medicaid program that was growing at 10 and 1/2 percent, and reduced it to two and a half percent in the second year I was governor without cutting one benefit, or throwing one person off the roles.  So, we have spent a lot of time on healthcare.

First of all, the problem with Obamacare is it does not control the costs of healthcare.  They continue to escalate, and if they continue to the people who are going to be hurt are the ones who are going to be rationed, which are going to be all of us because we probably are not going to have the money to be able to evade that.

Secondly, health insurance costs in my state have gone up by an average of 80%, so to make healthcare more affordable - how do you make it more affordable when the costs are going up through the roof for the insurance? And, finally, it's trapped small businesses who don't want to get caught in the web of Obamacare.

web of Obamacare.

KASICH: So what would I do? 

Well, I'd take some federal resources and I'd combine it with the freed up Medicaid plan to continue to cover the working poor. We can't eliminate this and have tens of millions of Americans without health insurance. And by the way if I'm president a pre-existing condition will never be acceptable to deny you health insurance. That is un-American to take people off because they got sick. That's just a rip-off.

But here's the larger plan and we're actually doing this in our state and I would like to take it nationally. You see, we - we don't know how our hospitals really do and what their costs are and we really don't know how our doctors do or what their costs are. It's easier to interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls than it is a hospital bill.

Did you ever figure that out? So what we want to do is total transparency. How's a hospital do? What's its quality? What's its readmission rate? What's its infection rate? And by the way with physicians you say you're good, what's the quality, what's the cost?

And what we're doing is we're releasing all this information. We know some charge a lot, we know some charge less and right here in the midpoint. And what we're saying is if you can provide quality to a patient whether you're a hospital or a health care provideare below the midpoint we will give you a financial reward if you're providing quality at a lower price.

You see, we want to get the market into driving first of all your understanding of the system, your ability to make a choice and a constant effort to deliver high quality at a low price by giving people financial rewards. If your primary care doctor keeps you healthy for the year why not a little bit of a reward? And that's the way we're designing the system.

We're doing it in Medicaid and now the health care insurance companies are beginning to say in an effort to control costs - because think of your deductibles. They're almost as high now as –as having a catasphorphic plan. So we have to get in the business of high quality at lower prices driven by the marketplace. 

And this isn't a theory. This is not some political theory. We are about to actually make the payments next year based on quality and low prices. And most of our health care systems have participated in this including the Cleveland Clinic. So thank you, sir...

COOPER: Governor, let me ask though...

KASICH: Yes...

COOPER: Let me follow up on that. You're the only Republican left in this race who accept a Medicaid financing for your state...

KASICH: Yeah...

COOPER: Do you regret that because you've been criticized...

KASICH: Regret it...

COOPER: You've been criticized by your fellow Republicans for it...

KASICH: Listen, we drove the cost of this health care - of this Medicaid program to like 2.5 percent. The whole country would like to have a rate like that and how do we do it? We said that if mom and dad want to say in their own home rather than being forced in the nursing they ought to be able to do it.

Once we stabilized the program I had the opportunity to bring these dollars back and Anderson, here's the deal. If I treat the mentally ill, I keep them from living in a prison at a $22,500 a year or sleeping under a bridge. We owe our mentally ill better treatment than that.

Secondly, if I treat the drug addicted I keep them from being in a revolving door of in and out in prison and maybe even breaking into our cars to support their habit which they can't control. So we actually have the rehab people in the prisons release them into the community where there's more resources and our recidivism rate is 20 percent which is like miraculous.

And then for the working poor - what we know about the working poor is they don't go to the emergency room until they're sickier and more expensive. And we think that one third of those working poor were people who had very severe illnesses including cancer who put off treatment. So this has worked out great for us and we're saving money and we're giving people an opportunity to be able to get their lives back.

And I - I think it's been terrific and I said if the federal government monkeys around with the formula we'll withdraw from the program. But you know what's beginning to happen, everybody's saying well wait a minute. If you can treat the mentally ill, if you can help the drug addicted and you can help the working poor why wouldn't we be doing that?

And they don't have to do it my way. Each state should do what they want to do but if you're not going to do what I'm doing then tell me what it is you're going to do. OK... 

OK ...

COOPER: We're going to take a short break. We have more questions from our audience for Governor Kasich when we come back. You're watching the CNN Republican Town Hall from the University of South Carolina in Columbia. We'll be back in a few minutes.



COOPER: And welcome back. We're talking with Ohio Governor John Kasich here on the campus of the University of South Carolina in Columbia for the final CNN town hall before Saturday's Republican primary. 

Governor, I want you to meet Laura Colton. She's from Irmo (ph), South Carolina. She says she's still undecided between a few candidates, as a lot of people are in this state. Welcome,

QUESTION: Good evening, Governor Kasich, and congratulations on getting the endorsement from our state paper. 

KASICH: Yeah, I'm really happy about it. 

QUESTION: Would you consider selecting one of the other candidates for your Cabinet? And if so, who would it be? 

KASICH: Well, look, I'm not going to be measuring like the drapes. I've got a long way to go, OK? 


I mean, we're really, really early. But I'll tell you who I have been friends with for a while. I like him very much. I like Chris Christie a whole lot. And Chris and I actually, you know, are kind of buddies. I mean, his wife and I and my wife, you know, have been out to dinner. And I've always liked Chris. We kid and joke and he's a terrific guy. 

And so he's somebody that was a candidate who would be considered. And look, I'm open to - you know, these are all fine people. And you've got to realize that when you run for - like somebody says you ought to run for president. Do you know how hard it is to run for president? I mean, it is not easy. And so they all deserve an awful lot of respect, and I like them all. I just don't want to, you know, fight with them. I'd rather be up here than down here at that - you know, that kind of stuff. I was in a demolition derby on Saturday, but my car kept going around the track. So anyway, thank you. Are you available for anything? 

QUESTION: Yes, sir. 


KASICH: Could I get your resume? Thank you. 

COOPER: Governor, this is Jacob Godwin. He's a law student here. He says he's leaning right now toward Governor Bush. Jacob?

QUESTION: Governor Kasich, my grandfather was a World War II veteran, went to college on the G.I. Bill, and then opened a small business in Hartsville, South Carolina. It's a small town about an hour away from here. 

My mom runs that business now. We've been open for 65 years. I want to know, if you are elected, what you'll do to bring industry to small towns so that's small businesses like my mom's will stay in business, and so that small towns like Hartsville will continue to not only survive but to thrive and to grow. 

KASICH: Yeah. Well, I - I would say, first of all, we've got to get the overall economy growing. And I want to go back one more time. If you have too many regulations, you will choke small business. They are the engine of job creation in America. 

That's why it's important to bring the rates down for individual taxes - because most of those small businesses pay the individual rate. Give them the incentive on taxes, go through - you know, I - vice presidents usually spend their time going to funerals. 

I would like my vice president to spend his or her time trying to bring some rationality to all the rules and regulations, and force the Congress to vote on anything $100 million and above, and - and just stop all this flurry of regulation. 

And then, of course, if we can get a fiscal plan that gets us close to a balanced budget, which I've done before, you're going to see the economy take off. 

Now - so the small businesses, or the small towns - look. What we've done in Ohio's - and - and I knew this before being in business for ten years. You've got to look at the assets that you have. 

What makes you unique in Hartsville? What are the things that you can do there that maybe you can't do anywhere else? And that's what you have to focus on. 

See, I privatized economic development in Ohio, and I created a not-for-profit that has enough money to hire people who are actually skilled, and we look at - at the segments of our state, like we should as a country, and figure out what works. 

Some things work in big towns, some things work in midsize towns and some things work in small towns. But if I were economic development director of Hartsville, I'd be looking around at what the assets are that we have there that makes us special, where we can draw industry in. That is, I think, the way you want to do it. 

And also you want to diversify your industries, because if you depend on one thing - and you all know the story of the textile mills that went down. If you depend on just one thing, it won't work. 

And then we need to have a president who's actually gonna be - understands how business works, and also pro-job. I mean, if you don't have a job, you don't have much. 

And so there's - and we can get some of these businesses to come back from overseas. We've seen it in our state. But we have to - you know, lower the corporate tax rate so businesses will come in. But small-town investing is really cool. You know why? Wages are more manageable for businesses. 

But take advantage of the resources you have, and you better get ready to run that business, young man, OK? Thank you. 


COOPER: And, Governor, I want you to meet - this is Eddie Rogers. He manages a gun store here in Columbia. He says he's still undecided. Welcome, Eddie. 

QUESTION: Hello, Governor. Like he said, I work at a local firearm shop here in Columbia. And as you know, firearms have skyrocketed in sales over the past seven and a half years. 

Talking with customers, they fear that their Second Amendment is being infringed upon. How do you interpret the second amendment as far as individual right or, as some scholars argue, a collective right. 

COOPER: Look, I'm for the Second Amendment. People have a right to defend themselves. They have a right to own these guns for a variety of reasons, including hunting and - and collection. 

I mean, we don't want to be messing around with the Second Amendment, plain and simple. And in our state, as governor, I've signed - you know, many of these - of these gun bills. 

I think the president, on one area he has hit on that I - and he shouldn't do it by executive order, but he - but we ought to look at it, and that's the issue of mental illness. 

We want to make sure states are able to upload the data so that we're not - when we do an instant check, we're not selling a gun to somebody who's unstable. 

And when we take a look at the problems of the mass shooters in this country, virtually every time that somebody is involved, when we check their record, there's an element of mental illness involved. So we gotta make sure we do that. But other than that, enforce the gun rules - the gun laws that we have now, and allow people to celebrate the fact that the Second Amendment is a very important part of the constitution. 

COOPER: Let me follow up on that, actually. The - the president put in, as you mentioned, some new executive actions. Would you keep those in place? 

KASICH: Probably not, no. I mean, I don't - I don't know all of them. But here's the problem with the president and - and - and the issue of - of executive orders.

KASICH: I do executive orders as governor of Ohio, but I check with the legislative leaders. And I say, "What do you think? I'm thinking about doing this." And sometimes they'll say, "OK, go ahead and do it, but don't tell anybody I told you to do it."

Because sometimes they don't want to have to vote on some of these issues, OK? But if you just jam stuff through, Anderson, what you're doing is you're just going to push them off, and you have bigger fish to fry than any individual issue. 

So my view is you have to work with that legislature. You have to get along with them as an executive. See, I'm unique. I never thought about this in this way. I was a congressman for 18 years. I went in at 30, believe it or not. And so I understood how they feel about executives. And now I'm an executive, and I know how they feel about legislators.

And that is really key in getting things done. If we're going to balance a budget, fix the border, fix Social Security, deal with student loans - any of these other things that are out there, you've got to do it together. Reagan had the boll weevils, which were the conservative Democrats. Kasich had the blue dogs when I was fighting to balance the budget, the conservative Democrats. 

We have to have some area of bipartisanship. But overall, the executive cannot - he or she cannot thumb their nose at the legislature because it is a relationship that has to work mutually. And I think the president doing executive orders has way exceeded his authority and created more, you know, more polarization down there, which is all going to have to be fixed.

COOPER: We like to wrap up these town halls with just some kind of lighter personal questions so voters have a chance to get to know you...

KASICH: I want to give you one lighter thing. You know how you fix Congress? One of the things I'm going to do in the first 100 days is I'm going to get the phone numbers of all the moms and dads who have kids in Congress - I'm going to know then their birthdays are and I'm going to call mom on her birthday and she's going to call her kid who's in the Congress and say, "I like the president; he called me on my birthday; don't mess with him, OK?"


(APPLAUSE) COOPER: I mentioned earlier, you were an altar boy. I read that you at one point thought about becoming a priest. What made you decide to go into politics?

KASICH: Oh, well, I went into politics because my mother was, I like to say, a talk show pioneer. The person on the radio would say something and then she would yell at the radio. 


And so I learned about opinions. And I was - I really wanted at one point to be a lawyer, and I'd go into the courthouse as a young guy and I would listen to them debate. That's what I thought I was going to do. But when I went to Ohio State - I don't know if you know this story, I'll tell you very quickly - I - it had 48,000 students, and something upset me. So I decided I needed to go and see the president of the university. My Uncle Emil (ph) told me always start at the top.

I couldn't get in, then I finally did. And I went in to see the president. And I lodged my complaint. And I looked at him and I said, "Sir, I've been in school about a month and I'm undecided. And looking at the furniture, the lighting, the carpeting - beautiful - maybe this is the job for me. What exactly do you do?"

And he tells me his academic and fundraising responsibility. And he says, "Tomorrow, I'm going to fly down to Washington and have a meeting with President Nixon." And I said, "Well, Sir, I have a number of things I would like to tell him also. Could I go with you?" And he said, "No." And I said, "Well, if I write a letter, would you give it to the president?" Which he did. 

And then I went down to may mailbox a couple of, you know, weeks later, and there's a letter from the White House. And I opened it up, I go upstairs, I call my mom. I said, "Mom, I'm going to need an airline ticket; the president of the United States would like to have a meeting with me in the Oval Office." And my mother is shouting, "Honey, pick up the phone; there's something wrong with Johnny."


So, I fly down. I get through the security. I'm sitting right at the Oval Office. And a guy walks up to me and he says, "Young man, you're going to get five minutes alone with the president of the United States. What do you think? Pretty cool?" Yeah, I'll tell you what I'm thinking: new jacket, new shirt, new tie, new pants. I didn't come here for five lousy minutes.


So they opened up the door. I went in. The good news is I spent 20 minutes alone as an 18-year-old first quarter freshman with the president of the United States. The bad news is I spent 18 years in Congress. And if you add up all the time I spent in the Oval Office, I peaked out at the age of 18.


COOPER: Well, you know, funny, we actually have a picture. We're going to - we actually have a picture to show our viewers of you meeting Nixon. I had a question about it, which we're not going to ask since you told the story. But I just want to quickly show our viewers at home - it's only the folks at home can see it, but...

KASICH: Thank God they don't have it, because you can see the haircut, OK?


COOPER: Yeah. Just a couple of quick other questions. We ask a lot of the candidates this. What kind of music do you listen to?

KASICH: Well, you know, I was just talking back stage. You know, we have this Fall Out Boy is one of them. You know, I...


Yeah, yeah, no. I like Lincoln Park and 21 Pilots, you know, "Stressed Out." We play that our on our bus, but we're not stressed out. And, you know, they actually went to my kids' school. And I'm a pretty much alternative and modern. My favorite concert was The Wall. You know, I'm the one that said I'm going to get Pink Floyd back together again.

COOPER: I've seen - I've seen that twice.

KASICH: Yeah, with Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Now, somebody said, you know, well, there's others that are dead. I said, hey, it's Gilmour and Waters. I mean, come on. And if you have ever seen The Wall...

COOPER: It's the best concert ever. 

KASICH: ... best concert ever, Roger Waters and The Wall. If it comes back, go see it. 

COOPER: It's worth it. Just one final, and it's a serious question as well. I lost my dad when I was young, your parents were killed by a drunk driver in a - in a car accident. How did that change the person you...

KASICH: Well, it changed my whole life. And the only thing I will say about this is for those that are watching, Anderson, it was - when I was a little boy, I was afraid my mom and dad wouldn't come one night, because my dad would pick my mother up late at night on a very bad road. And then at the age of 35, I got a phone call that they wouldn't be able to get home. And you know where they were, they were at the Burger King because they got the second cup of coffee for free. That's the way the mailman and Mrs. Kasich lived. 

And I went into a black hole with just a little pin prick of light, Anderson. And others who are here tonight have had that experience. But I had people come to me. I don't care - you know, you don't have to agree with me or like it or whatever, but it's really where I found the Lord. And I've spent 29 years of my life working on that, and I'm here to tell people that - and look, life is - it's so rocky, it's so fragile. 

We have to build our homes - our lives, our homes on solid granite, not on sand. And I have found that even though the pain still comes, there's where I have to go. And as a result of my parents' accident, it's allowed me to hug that boy, and I whispered some things to him. Or to go places with military families that lose a loved one; I meet with them. 

I'm not - look, I'm not that great a guy, OK? I'm just doing the best I can. And sometimes I fail. But I believe there's a life yet to come, and I just happen to believe that I'm going to look up here and I'm going to do my best to be the best person I can do. And the campaign's actually got me to slow down a little bit, which has been great. And I've got a great family, great daughters, Emma and Reese (ph). And I'm - look, it's just all been a miracle to me, and I would really appreciate your consideration on Saturday, and give me a chance to get to the rest of the country, OK? I need your help. Thank you, Anderson. 

COOPER: Governor, thank you. 

KASICH: Thank you for this. 

COOPER: Governor Kasich. When we come back, Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush onstage. We'll be right back. 


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