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COOPER: And welcome back. There is history all around us here at downtown Milwaukee’s Riverside Theater, which opened in 1928. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1966. It was lovingly restored in the 80s and has been at the heart of this city’s cultural life ever since. It is a magnificent theater.
We’re here in the mid of a history-making Republican presidential campaign, bringing voters face to face with the candidates, showcasing their questions and bringing it all to you at home. Joining us now is Ohio’s governor, John Kasich.
GOV. JOHN KASICH (R-OH), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: How are you?
COOPER: Good to see you. Have a seat.
All right, we got a lot of questions from the audience about a lot of policy issues. A couple of questions on news of the day. Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, charged today with simple battery. Would you fire him?
KASICH: Well, I haven’t seen the video, but they tell me the video is real. Of course I would. Look, when you have problems like that, you have to act. Now, I’ve been of course an executive running the seventh-largest state. And we see things that happen. At times, you want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but when you see things that are pretty clear – from what I understand the video is clear. Of course would fire him.
COOPER: Let’s talk about your path to the nomination. You are pinning your hopes on a contested convention. Assuming there is one, why would you be selected? You’ve only won one state, your home state, Ohio. Why would you get the nomination?
KASICH: Well, a couple of reasons, Anderson. First of all, in virtually every national poll, I am the only one that beats Hillary Clinton consistently. In fact, in the last poll that came out I was up 11 points.
Secondly, and, you know, delegates would look, for example, at, you know, can you win in the fall? I mean, it’s like a really important part of this thing, it’s not just the nomination, it’s about winning the election.
And frankly, if we do not have a strong candidate that brings people together, we have a prospect of losing the United States Senate as well.
And secondly, Anderson, at some point that people that go to a convention are going to be concerned about who actually could run the country. I mean, it’s like a big deal. You know, who could be president, who could be commander-in-chief?
And I have more experience than really all of them put together except for Mrs. Clinton. I mean, I have — you know, I served 18 years on the defense — Armed Services Committee, I was in the Pentagon after 9/11. I was chairman of the Budget Committee. I was involved in welfare reform.
When I was chairman of the Budget Committee, we balanced the budget, we had job growth. I’ve been the executive in Ohio. We’ve grown jobs.
So at some point people are going to look at two things, who can win in the fall, and secondly who could be the best president?
COOPER: But polls are one thing, though, I mean, to have only won — if it continues on this path, to have only won one state, your home state, won’t some delegates say, look, OK, the polls say he can win in a head-to-head matchup against Hillary Clinton, but the voters have spoken.
KASICH: Well, Anderson, I think it’s pretty clear and most of the people in here I think would agree with this, for most of the debates, I was completely ignored. I mean, it has been like the last three weeks to a month that people have started to pay attention to who I am and my message.
And it has fundamentally happened that way because I’ve not gotten down in the mud. I haven’t name-called. I haven’t had all these nasty sound bites. I’ve just been laying out my record and my vision for what I want to see happen.
But conventions are very interesting. Republicans have had 10 conventions. And the leader going into the convention has only been the nominee three times out of 10. Seven times out of 10 they were not.
So I think — and we’re going to do better as this calendar moves to the east. Look, now I’m starting to get on my home court, you know, — look, I went to Ohio, I won by 11 points. You know, I did very, well there.
We’re going to go to Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut. These are all places where I can do extremely well. And we will continue to accumulate delegates. And we’ll have momentum going into the convention.
And by the way, the convention is nothing more than an extension of the process we have going now. Somehow people think they’re truncated somehow, they’re disjointed. They’re not.
It’s a process of primaries. You accumulate delegates. You go to the convention. And then they pick the nominees.
COOPER: I want to ask you about terrorism. When you were asked about what happened in Brussels last week — or let’s talk about that. In terms of what U.S. response should and what the fight against ISIS should look like, you said yesterday that one of the opponents wants to make the sand glow and the other one complains about other countries not doing enough, obviously you were talking about Senator Cruz and Mr. Trump.
Why would America be safer under your watch?
KASICH: Well, Anderson, first of all, I’ve been saying for a long time and laid out an extensive program on rebuilding the military. Secondly, I’ve been the one arguing all along that we need to go after ISIS in a coalition like we had in the first Gulf War.
I was there when I saw it happen. I saw our Muslim Arab friends join us in the West, and we pushed Saddam out of Kuwait.
You know, secondly, that same coalition needs come together and we need to destroy ISIS both in the air and on the ground, settle it down and then come home. And let the regional powers draw the map.
COOPER: There are a lot of countries, Saudi Arabia, that don’t necessarily see ISIS as their predominant threat.
KASICH: Oh, no, no, no. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the Gulf states, they all know it’s an existential threat. They know that they — that the kingdom hangs by a thread because of the radicalism of ISIS.
And so the fact is they will join us. They joined us before against Saddam Hussein. That was not as big of a deal as this is where they’re blowing people up all over the world.
Secondly, of course, I think, Anderson, that we need really good worldwide intelligence. I think that the lemons we’re seeing can be turned into lemonade and I think a president of the United States can rally the civilized world to destroy these folks who are intent on destroying us.
And secondly, we talked about NATO. That was another thing I talked about. We need to change NATO from not just a military organization, but an intelligence-gathering and also a policing organization that works across boundaries.
All of us together, fighting together, working together, destroy ISIS, have the good human intelligence…
COOPER: Donald Trump says NATO is obsolete. Is it?
KASICH: Well, of course it’s not. That’s absurd, obsolete, OK?
KASICH: Now, look, it’s really important that we get these countries to pitch in and do more. They’ll never do as much as we want. I mean, I lived through a whole time when we would push them, pressure them.
Part of the problem is it’s their governments over there. You know, there is too much socialism, there is too much political correctness. That’s why they didn’t even catch this thing in Brussels. And you know that the screw-ups that we saw with the intelligence.
But here’s the thing: no, NATO has an additional role now. And that is policing and intelligence gathering. You see, we need to have the Muslims working with us and the West —
COOPER: That’s critical?
KASICH: Absolutely critical. Let me tell you, Anderson, if we wanted to get information out of some radical that’s in a mosque — you’re a really great guy, but if you were three blocks from the mosque, do you think you’d get anything?
COOPER: I don’t blend very well.
KASICH: No, you are don’t. Well, the fact is is that we want the Muslims who are — they feel as strongly as we do about these murderers out there. These Muslims, they’re the ones that have to police their own neighborhoods. And, frankly, we need the imams to come out and issue statements about how their religion has been hijacked.
But it takes all of us together. It takes us to have great human intelligence. And here in the United States we’ve got counterterrorism task forces made up of the FBI, it’s made up of Homeland Security, state and local law enforcement, and their job is to disrupt. That’s why the issue of Apple was so important because they need the resources to be able to carry out their job for all of us, but they need one other thing: they need the tools. And if they can’t hear, then it becomes a problem.
But there’s also a role for us. Because when we see something happening in our neighborhood, Anderson, we have an obligation to alert authorities as well.
COOPER: You talked about Donald Trump belittle — in an interview today, you said about Donald Trump’s foreign, “I think that’s the most ridiculous of foreign policy I ever heard. This is just somebody that just doesn’t understand foreign policy. Just doesn’t” —
KASICH: Well which part was I talking about? I don’t remember.
COOPER: I’m not sure either.
KASICH: OK. Well, I mean, I think the idea that – I’ll tell you one.
COOPER: Do you think he –
KASICH: We’re going to have a religious test on who comes in the country. So, when you come in the country, I say, well, are you a Muslim? Raise your hand if you’re a Muslim. I mean, come on, Anderson. That’s not going to work.
We’re not going to police Muslim neighborhoods. We can’t afford polarization of people who are in the civilized world. You know, there are people all over the world that know that this threat has to be stopped. It has to be destroyed, and we have to work together as a world. Because when people in Pakistan die, we all die a little bit when they blow up innocent men, women and children at an Easter service. I mean, the world understands this.
And this is an opportunity for us to be brought together. The president, by the way, went to a baseball game in Cuba instead of coming home, meeting. I’ll tell you what I would do if I were president. I would come home, I would call world leaders. I would gather my military and intelligence experts. I would find out our vulnerabilities, and I would send them to Europe. And I would say, let us look at what our problems are, and let’s fix them immediately.
COOPER: The response of the White House is often to that criticism –
COOPER: The response of the White House to that criticism, and I want you to be able to respond to it, is often, well, look. By changing the president’s schedule, it gives power to the terrorist group that they’re able to change the leader of the free world’ s schedule and that he can do the work he needs to do on wherever location he’s at.
KASICH: So you kind of go to a baseball game, and you don’t come home?
COOPER: Well, that’s another issue.
KASICH: And – no, here’s the situation. That attack was in the heart of Europe. I mean, that was an attack on the very heart of our friends who live in Europe. Yes, I think it’s important enough to come home. Secondly —
KASICH: — I’ll give you another one that I can’t believe. The president of the United States — the first thing he did is he wouldn’t meet with our friend Netanyahu. OK, that was the first meeting he snubbed. Now, he’s snubbed another one. He’s snubbed a meeting with the president of Turkey. Do you know how important it is for to us have good relations with Turkey? They’re the gateway to the East.
Now, Erdogan is doing some things that none of us like. But you know what? We have to deal with him. He is the one that alerted the Europeans about the radical that was moving over to Brussels. You have to be able to manage this. And I tell you, it’s complicated, it takes sophistication. And you need to have good advisers. But I’ll tell you what else you need. You need experience, and you need a good gut. And I’ve been involved in these things for almost all of my adult lifetime. So, I have advisers, but I don’t have many teachers. I understand most of these things.
COOPER: We’ve talked about Trump’s campaign manager. Your campaign manager tweeted this just a couple of hours ago. Quote, “Cruz with zero friends, zero record, zero vision, zero chance decides to lie about @JohnKasich. Desperate? Trump right on one thing, “lying Ted.”
Does this signal any kind of a new phase –
KASICH: No, I didn’t know he – you know, because sometimes he gets a little tweet happy, and I don’t like that, OK?
KASICH: And I will have a word with him about it. But let me say – that look. The Cruz campaign, their super PAC is spending a half a billion (sic) to $800,000 against me in Wisconsin. I mean, they say, well, Kasich doesn’t have any strength out here. Usually, if you don’t have any strength, they don’t spend $500,000 to $800,000 attacking you. And you know, the attacks are – look.
Arnold Schwarzenegger told me in 2010 when I was running for governor, I was saying, Arnold, they’re really beating me up. He looked at me and said, “John, love the beatings.” Okay, that’s part of politics, and I’ve learned to love the beatings. But I mean, the fact is, is that they are hammering me, and they’re not hammering Trump. It’s very interesting. But that’s okay; I can take it.
COOPER: In terms of tone and tenor of the campaign, your two fellow candidates have obviously been duking it out over the last week or so…
KASICH: The last week or so?
KASICH: How about the last five months? Where you been, Anderson?
COOPER: In this new phase on the whole…
KASICH: That’s why I’m not in the news. I didn’t call anybody a name. And you know what, I’m in the going to take the low road to the highest office in the land. I’m not going to do it.
COOPER: That’s my question. That was my question, which was, what does it look like from the sidelines when you watch this?
KASICH: I’ll tell you, sometimes it’s amazing to me. Sometimes when I look at it I think, what the heck are we doing here? You know, I was on a radio talk show with some guy here, Jay somebody or other, I don’t remember this morning — yes, whatever his name is.
KASICH: Nice guy. Nice guy.
And he was — and even yesterday I was on a different one, and a guy says to me, well, you know, maybe this is the new politics. If name calling, bringing in spouses and ripping each other below the belt and wrestling in the mud is the new politics, we all need to stand against it. Our children are watching. This is America.
KASICH: We need to talk about what we’re for. And I have been consistent. Now, when they say something on policy-wise that’s bad, of course I’m going to say something about it, but I don’t want to go down into — I’m not going to go down there. I hope not. I could screw up but I hope not.
COOPER: Let’s go to our audience for some issues (ph). Jim Vogel (ph) is here. He works in advertising. He says he’s leaning right now towards Senator Cruz.
QUESTION: Hi, governor.
In Ohio you accepted Medicaid expansion and you took on the — I’m sorry, the health care exchanges and it was to help the poor. Here in Wisconsin we used — Governor Walker used BadgerCare to essentially provide the same services at the same levels, and yet we did it without creating a whole new entitlement program and expanding federal debt. Why did you choose Obamacare? Why did you choose the Washington-based solution? And why can’t you guys ever look at some other source other than Washington for these solutions?
KASICH: Okay, let me say a couple of things. First of all, it’s not so simple what Governor Walker did here. If you look at it, it’s more complicated. And by the way, today the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel endorsed me for president of the United States saying I’m the guy that is a pragmatic conservative that can get things done. I was really appreciative of that endorsement.
But look, I took a Medicaid program that was growing at 10 1/2 percent, and in my second year as governor it grew at 2 1/2 percent, without taking one person off the rolls or cutting one benefit. How did I do it? I brought innovation to the system. Now I then had a choice. Now that my program was under control, I then had a choice. Could I bring money back, which is frankly our money, Ohio money, back to Ohio to solve some of our problems.
Let me tell what you we’ve done. I don’t believe the mentally ill ought to be sleeping under a bridge or living in prison. It costs $22,500 a year to put them in prison. If I can get their medication and get them on their feet and if get they can get a job, they become taxpayers. We save money.
Secondly, I believe that the drug addicted in our prisons should be treated, because we don’t want a revolving door of in and out of the prisons, because that costs $22,500 a year, and we also are throwing a life down the drain. So guess what, because of our program now in the prisons and with the community, we have an 80 percent success rate in not having people go back in, and our recidivism rate is 27 percent.
And, by the way, we’re running a $2 billion surplus. We don’t put our budget together with scotch tap and bail and wire — we’re running a $2 million surplus. We’re managing it all. So where are we? Where we are in Ohio, is we are not treating the mentally ill, the drug addicted, the working poor, they’re in a better position, they’re not in our prisons, and at the same time, they’re getting on their feet, they’re becoming taxpayers and our Medicaid program is completely under control.
And by the way, I reject Obamacare, and I did not go along with the exchange that they were trying to force on me, because I never knew what the heck was going to come of it.
I actually have a solid health care plan to replace Obamacare, which involves transparency, competition, market-oriented forces. We’re actually doing it in my state, and I’d like to spread it all across the country.
So the idea of doing that was not only compassionate, but it also made good economic sense for our state and it’s working out quite well.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
Governor, I want you too meet, this is Julie Grace. She’s a student at Marquette University…
KASICH: You know what, just one other thing I wanted to say. You understand that I spent 10 years of my life fighting to balance the budget. And we got it balanced. Senator Domenici and I worked with the Clinton administration. We got the budget balanced four years in a row.
It hadn’t been balanced since man walked on the moon, hasn’t been balanced since. And when I left Washington, there was a $5 trillion surplus, and guess who spent it? The Republicans.
Now, sir, you have to stand in the breach when you’re a leader. And what I did in Washington in getting that budget under control, and seeing it liftoff in jobs, and what I’ve done in Ohio, we’re now up 417,000 jobs in Ohio from a downturn of when I came in of 350,000.
And we’ve cut taxes by more than any governor in the country, including your governor.
COOPER: All right. I want you to meet Julie Grace, she’s a student at Marquette University.
KASICH: But thank you.
COOPER: And she said she’s supporting you.
KASICH: Oh, you are?
QUESTION: I am.
KASICH: Good. OK. Say something really, really good.
QUESTION: I’ll try. So in Europe many far right conservative parties, anti-immigrant parties have been gaining momentum recently, specifically Germany, Sweden, France, and Britain. Do you think a similar movement is occurring here in the U.S.? And if so, how can the Republican Party address this?
KASICH: We’ve gone through periods of time in our history when we have turned against immigration. It has happened. And these movement have sprung up.
Look, we have to — young lady, we have to protect the border. That is a given, OK? For a couple of reasons, and one of them is security. So we have to get the border done.
And secondly, we should have a guest worker program where people can come in and work, and then they can go back home, because that’s what they want to do.
And thirdly, if they came here illegally but they’ve not committed a crime since they’ve been here, they’ll pay a fine, back taxes, and they can have a path to legalization, not a path to citizenship.
Now the idea that we’re going to drive around in Waukesha and we’re going to drive around here in Milwaukee, and we’re going to yank people out of their homes, leaving their kids on the front porch crying and screaming?
Come on, that’s ridiculous, OK? Call it what it is, it’s ridiculous. But we can get the border fixed. We can have a guest worker program. We can get a path to legalization, not let anybody else come. You have got to go back, no excuses.
And you want to know what I think? I think that can pass. I think that can pass the United States Congress. And I think it can pass with the American people and get this issue behind us and get this thing healed.
We need a healing in America. And stop kicking cans down the road and solve problems in this country. And I think that’s a reasonable solution to this problem of immigration.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
This is Asa White, he’s a student also, says he’s leaning towards supporting Donald Trump right now. Asa, welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. My question — the most recent terrorist attack in Brussels has highlighted a big issue we have with our attack on foreign terrorism. That is, we now have neighborhoods that are being deemed as terrorist hotbeds.
Do you support Senator Cruz’s — when he says we should go into Muslim neighborhoods and patrol them?
KASICH: No, I don’t support that at all. I think it’s ridiculous. And you know what? The guy who was the best police guy in the whole country, he understands policing, is a guy named Bill Bratton.
He’s now currently the police chief in New York. He was the police chief under Rudy Giuliani. He was the head of the metro system in Boston. And he ran the Los Angeles Police Department. He is absolutely the best. He said that plan is ridiculous.
And let me just tell you, sir, we all want to catch these bad guys. And I know how it works because I’ve got Joint Terrorism Task Force members who are in my state, they’re in your state.
We need to hear what’s happening in the community. So let me just — let me ask you this question. If all of a sudden we start trying to pinpoint you — we have a religious test, we’re going to now patrol your neighborhood and your home because we suspect, even though you’re as law-abiding as anybody else in the country. Now I want you to help me find out who the bad guys are.
I mean, come on, that doesn’t make any sense that if we polarize the entire Muslim community, how are we going to get the information we want? We want Muslims who go to mosques who see radicalization to tell the authorities about it.
Because I have got to tell you, the vast, vast, vast majority of Muslims, they think their religion has been hijacked, that we have murderers out there who have distorted their religion. And they want to stop had as much as we want to stop it.
So the fact is let’s isolate those people who are the killers and let’s work together as a community of civilized people to take the battle to them. Destroy ISIS, that’s a given, and then after that great intelligence to make sure we can thwart these attacks and get the Europeans to start, you know, paying attention and doing their job. I mean, that’s what I think we need to do, sir.
So thank you.
COOPER: Thank you for your question.
KASICH: This is Jim Walker. He’s a Republican from Franklin, Wisconsin. He said he’s leaning towards Ted Cruz for his experience, but likes you because you run a blue-collar state.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Anderson. And welcome to the great state of Wisconsin, governor.
I represent a manufacturer, farm equipment manufacturer, here in Wisconsin that directly employs many thousands of people. Indirectly, as you can imagine, with farm equipment that we sell, we indirectly support many more thousand farmers who buy our equipment. On top of that we export about a third of our product that we manufacture here in essence. So in essence, we’re a global manufacturing company.
To spark a war right now would not only be detrimental to business, but all of those people directly and indirectly that I said we support.
My question to you is, as president, how would you engage in diplomacy that won’t hurt global manufacturing businesses?
KASICH: Yes, number one, I want you to know, sir, that in my state now, we have over 63,000 new manufacturing jobs. It’s really cool that — and we’re paying attention to all the sectors, which we need to do as a nation.
Let’s talk about trade for a second. It’s a tough issue. One out of five Americans work for something related to trade, and secondly, that’s 38 million Americans.
Now we need to have open and free trade. You know, I was saying — I do these townhalls all the time. I love them, by the way.
Look, remember when we got all of those Japanese cars coming into our country? You know what happened to U.S. cars? They got better. Innovation and competition really works, okay.
But at the same time when we do trade agreements and other countries cheat, and they do cheat — some of them manipulate their currency, and we need to call them on it when they do it. When we find it, we need to call them on it.
But let me tell you another issue for you. So we had U.S. steel invest a lot of money in state. They invest money all over the country. The Koreans were dumping tubes inside the U.S. That means selling product below the cost of what it took them to make them. By the time you research them and prove your case, which you would have to do, it could be a year or two and all your people are out of work. We need an early-warning system.
And let me tell you, when they cheat, I will act as the president of the United States. Think of it this way. If Ohio State came up to play your beloved Badgers and I asked for five downs to get a first down and you only got four, how would you feel? You wouldn’t put up with it, okay? We should not put up with countries when they cheat.
But that does not keep us from embracing the notion of open and free trade.
One other thing, we now have this trade agreement on the table, you the TPP agreement. You know, what we basically do when we trade is we’re the most open country, and everybody else has barriers. So what we try to do is to get their barriers down so we get our products into their country. But there’s another element of this. You worry about the Chinese and their growing strength, particularly in Asia? Make a trade agreement, integrate ourselves with our friends in Asia who can become a bulwark against the strength of the Chinese.
COOPER: But governor…
KASICH: (inaudible) open trade good when they cheat. You’ve got to have an early-warning system. You’ve got to shut it off.
And by the way, agriculture depends on exports more than about any other industry in this country.
COOPER: But, governor, that message isn’t resonate — I mean, Donald Trump is saying trade deals are essentially bad. They’re exporting jobs overseas. That’s the message which seems to be resonating with voters.
KASICH: Anderson, I can say all kinds of things to get people stirred up, but leaders don’t do that. Leaders tell people the way that they see it, even if it means for a while you’re unpopular. Look, when I — after my first — you can’t believe how many people I made angry in Washington by fighting to balance the budget. Now in Ohio, in my first year in office, I was one of the most unpopular governors, but I knew what the formula was, and now I’m one of the most popular governors.
You cannot make decisions as a leader by putting your finger in the air and — or doing focus groups or telling people what they want to hear so you get them involved, but you know what they’re saying — what you’re saying is not true. I will not do that. I have never done it in my lifetime, and I’m not about to start. Period and end of story.
COOPER: This is William Dunford. He’s a student at Marquette University. He says he supports Ted Cruz — William.
QUESTION: Thank you, governor.
My question is, 70 years after World War II and a quarter century after the Cold War ended, a lot of European security remained a responsibility for Americans? And given that Europeans are wealthy enough to defend themselves, why shouldn’t they?
KASICH: Well, young man, look, I don’t know if you’re a leader in your family or not. But leaders, you know, there are people in here who do more for their family than their brothers and sisters, their siblings. OK? And sometime, your spouse says why do we have do this all the time? Because that’s what leaders do.
I mean, frankly, of course, the Europeans can do more to support themselves. Their economies, by and large, have been a shambles. So, they need to straighten out their economies. And it’s a really tough struggle. I mean, I can tell you that it’s hard for them to get right with things.
So, they are weak economically. That doesn’t excuse them from not carrying their share of the load. But at the same time, we don’t want to have those relationships deteriorate or be eliminated. You know why? Because it hurts us, too. We need to have a strong Western Europe.
And by the way, I heard – I just heard briefly somebody was saying that we should just ignore Ukraine. Are you kidding me? The United States of America should be arming the Ukrainians who want to fight for freedom against Putin.
KASICH: We should be arming them with non-lethal – with lethal defensive aid.
Now, young man, we should always tell them you’ve got to do more. And we should use whatever leverage we have to get them to do more. But I’m going to tell you as Americans, as long as I’ve been alive, we always carry more of the share of the burden than we would like. We always do.
And you know there’s an old Scripture that says “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And as president, I would fight to get them to give us more, and I would use whatever leverage I could to get them to give us more. But to be honest with you, we’re always going to complain about this.
But to walk away from that alliance, are you kidding me? If we walk away and it gets weaker, how long do you think it will take the Islamists to come over here? We need to work with them to destroy ISIS in the Middle East, and then we’ve got to work together as a society. That’s the way it works.
So, there’s no easy way out of this. And you know, when you are a leader who has seen these things, then you get a sobering approach. That’s why the “Journal Centennial” here in Milwaukee said Kasich is a pragmatic conservative. Because you just can’t knock all the pieces off the chess board when you get frustrated. It’s a good question, there.
COOPER: Governor, thank you. We’re going to take a quick break. We’re going to have more questions for Governor Kasich as this 360 CNN town hall continues.
Welcome back. We continue the conversation, taking more voter questions for Ohio governor John Kasich. Thanks very much for joining us again.
I want to ask you a question which I asked to each of the other candidates as well, and had some surprising answers.
A pledge was made early on in this race by all the GOP candidates, saying that they would pledge to support whoever the nominee was. Tonight Donald Trump said that pledge, essentially, was null and void. He would not pledge to continue to support whoever the nominee is, he would have to wait and see.
And, Ted Cruz wouldn’t really answer it, but implied that a lot has changed, and that not that Donald Trump has…
KASICH: … Maybe I won’t answer it either.
KASICH: Anderson, here’s the thing, this is what you have to weigh, and I wish everybody could get out and experience this.
When you’re in the arena, OK? You develop respect for people that are in the arena, but you know? I’ve been disturbed by some of the things that I’ve seen, and I have to think about what my word and endorsement would mean in a presidential campaign.
So, I want to see how this thing finishes out, and you know what? I want to tell you, I think the little engine that can keeps going. I sure hope they’ll endorse me for president when I’m the nominee coming out of the convention in Cleveland, how’s that? Is that a good answer? I don’t know.
COOPER: I would be remiss not to follow up, essentially you’re saying it’s in the balance. You’re kind of waiting to see?
KASICH: Well, I would say that that would be a good way to describe it.
COOPER: So, you’re not ironclad, standing by the initial pledge to support whoever the nominee is?
KASICH: You know, frankly, all of us shouldn’t have even answered that question, but it was the first debate, and — you know? What the heck, sometimes you answer questions — you ought to just say I’m not answering it.
COOPER: So, now, just to be clear…
KASICH: … I’m as clear as you’re going to get out of me.
COOPER: You’re not standing by that pledge…
KASICH: No, I don’t want to be political here. I got to see what happens. If the nominee is somebody that I think is really hurting the country, and dividing the country, I can’t stand behind them, but we have a ways to go. Let’s see how this all folds out, and then I’ll let you know…
COOPER: … Is it fair to say that you believe Donald Trump looks like he would harm the country if he was the nominee?
KASICH: That’ll be up to the voters here. I’m not going to get into that. That’s too much below the belt.
COOPER: I want to introduce you to Time Carey, he’s a small business owner. He says she’s still undecided. Tim, welcome.
QUESTION: Hello, Governor, welcome to Wisconsin. My family and I raced sled dogs in Northern Wisconsin, and this last year we started a business manufacturing sled dog equipment, a partner of mine and myself.
I funded the whole thing myself so far up to this point, and I just — I was wondering what your policies on small business to help people get small businesses going, or tax incentives, or what your thoughts were on that.
KASICH: I hate to keep talking about my state, but it’s a good illustration of my philosophy if I become president. Our small businesses pay virtually no income tax in Ohio because we want small businesses to grow, and for the young people that are here, the best chance you have of getting a job once you graduate from college is with a small business.
So, I’m for lowering the income taxes nationally. I’d like to have a 28, a 25 and a 10 percent rate because you probably pay through on your personal taxes, you have a pass-through corporation. So, we need to bring the taxes down and help small businesses.
The other thing we have to be careful of is we’re not snuffing out the small lending institutions, the community banks. I was – where was I? I was in La Crosse, and I went to this little bakery. And this woman proudly was talking about how she built this bakery business. It was a fantastic place. And she said a got a $9,000 loan. I said, how did you get it? She said, well, I went to one local community bank and said if you have won’t loan me the money, I’m going to go to the one down the street.
What we’re facing now in America because of the overregulation on some of the big banks that’s trickled down to the smaller banks is we’re beginning to see the smaller banks go out of business. Those are the ones you depend upon to get the loan you need because they know you, right?
So I think first of all, lower taxes – of course, for you. Commonsense regulation so we’re not crushing you with another stupid for that somebody in the government decides you have to abide by. And a path to fiscal stability, a balanced budget. Those are the things that will help you more than anything else.
And one final thing: workforce development. We have got to begin to teach our kids in K through 12 and also in the community college and the four-year schools to be getting an education for a job that exists. Don’t get educated in a vacuum. Make sure you know what you want to do, and look for an education that can lead you to a real job.
KASICH: Good luck. Good luck.
COOPER: Let me follow up on that. Sorry —
KASICH: I did a sled dog trip one time in New Hampshire many years ago, and I thought I was going to drown in the water. When I come up, you can give me a safe ride. How’s that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Yeah, any time. Thank you.
COOPER: I want to follow up on that, because you often – and you’ve done it tonight – touting Ohio’s economic record. According to FactCheck.org, Ohio has actually lagged behind the nation in job growth during your tenure as governor. So why — if that’s true, because they say –
KASICH: Well, that’s not true.
COOPER: Well, they say private sector job in Ohio was 9.3 percent during your tenure. The national private sector job growth rate was 11.7 percent —
KASICH: Anderson, we were 48th when I became governor, now we’re in the top 10. We went from at 350,000 job loss to a 417,000 job gain. We’re doing very, very well. But we’re not out of the woods yet.
But — let’s go back to Washington. When I fought for all those years to balance the budget, cut the capital gains tax — that’s the tax that gentleman uses when is he takes a risk — jobs were flying out like you couldn’t believe. And there was no discussion of income inequality.
There are three things needed to grow an economy: common sense regulations; we don’t have them now. Lower taxes; all the taxes are going up. And a balanced – and a movement toward a balanced budget. And we’re blowing all the budget up.
So you go to the doctor, say, how do I get healthy? They say, well, you do these three things. You go back, say, I’m not feeling well. And he or she says, well, what did you do? Well, I didn’t listen to anything you said. ‘
So, this is a formula that will work to bring our country back. Folks, I only say it because I’m only doing this because I want to you have job security. And I want to you believe that your kids are going to have a better life than you got from your parents. That’s the great American legacy and that’s when I’m committed to, folks. No matter who I tick off in the process. That’s what we got to do, okay? So —
COOPER: This is Mary Beth Gahn. She’s a sales representative for her family’s 106-year-old small business. She said she’s undecided. Welcome.
MARY BETH GAHN, SALES REPRESENTATIVE: Good evening, Governor.
GAHN: As a practices Roman Catholic, I believe life begins at conception and ends at natural death. If you were our president, would you support legislation or a nominee to the Supreme Court which would would create a protected class for unborn persons the same way we have protected classes for minority races and sexual orientations?
KASICH: I’ve been pro-life all of my career. The only exceptions are rape, incest and life of the mother. Now, when it comes to a Supreme Court justice, we’ve got to be careful about litmus tests because we don’t know where they begin and where they end. But I want to appoint judges who are conservative, who don’t make law but interpret the law. And when it comes to my pro-life record, I mean, it speaks for itself.
The other thing I would tell you, though, you said life begins and then it ends at death. I’m going to give you another thought. Life begins, then it ends at death and then we have another life yet to come. Don’t lose sight of that.
GAHN: Thank you, Governor.
KASICH: OK? Thank you. That’s what Easter was all about, right? Okay.
COOPER: Our next guest is Joseph Rice. He is a small business – or he is a business owner from White Fish Bay. He says he is slightly leaning towards Ted Cruz but that his heart is with you, governor. Joseph?
KASICH: Well, then go with the heart, man!
JOSEPH RICE, BUSINESS OWNER: Well, I’ll try to ask a heart-felt question here, Governor. I’m curious to know how you may have shown moral courage in the face of public opposition. So can you cite an action that you took or decision that you made knowing it was the right thing to do, despite it being politically unpopular?
KASICH: Well, I — look, I don’t want to get into how courageous I am or anything, but look, we — the gentleman stood up, first question out of here was Medicaid expansion. I knew it wasn’t going to be all that popular. Of course I wasn’t thinking about running for president.
I’ll tell you the story. I had this woman, she’s terrific. She runs our mental health, drug addiction services. She comes into my office and says — I said to her, do you think I’m going to expand Medicaid? And she says, well, I pray every night you will. And I said, well, okay, your prayers are answered; I’m going do it. She walked out of my office into the ante (ph) room and broke down and cried of joy for the fact that she can now help more people.
You know, the fact is, is that you can’t sit around worrying about who is really going to like you. I’ll give you another one. When I was in Washington, I said if we’re going to reform welfare for the poor people, we ought to reform it for the rich people. So I fought for corporate welfare reform. And we closed some of the loopholes that these big companies got when they moved — you know, when they moved out of the country to get — or moved to Puerto Rico, for example, to get tax advantages. I thought it was the right thing to do.
You wouldn’t believe how hard it was to get the federal budget balanced. One time we had a conference, I wanted to present the opposition to the Clinton tax increase, and I had a specific program to fight that, and we had a Republican conference, and Newt was sitting in the back of the room, and we had 36 speakers, and 34 said, Kasich shouldn’t unveil this plan. I walked to the back of the room. I said, Newt, how are we doing? He said, better than I thought we’d be. The plan got out. And if you ever heard Joe Scarborough talk, the battle that we engaged in, in ’93 and ’94 against the Clinton tax increases inspired him to run for Congress, and brought a whole new wave of people into the Congress.
Sir, what you have to realize in this business is you’re there for a short period of time. You have to drive the car when you get your hands on the wheel, and you got to have people around that will tell you when you’re on the wrong path, because sometimes you get on the wrong path.
But I have to also tell you, you don’t ever want to look back and say, I played politics, I took care of my party and I didn’t serve the people.
So I’ve been in politics a long time. I’m as a big of a reformer and an idealist as I was the day I got elected, because I believe we can change the world and make the world better for everyone. And sometimes you get people upset. That’s kind of goes with the territory. You know what Harry Truman said, if you want a friend and you’re in Washington, you better go get a dog. Okay?
COOPER: This is Charlotte Rasmussen. Charlote Rasmussen. She’s from the township of Butler. She’s retired. She says she’s undecided.
Governor Kasich, if you become the nominee of the party, who are you going to pick for your vice president?
KASICH: Are you available? You look great tonight.
KASICH: No, you know what, that’s so far ahead. That’s like measuring the drapes. But I picked a lieutenant governor, somebody to run with me, a great woman, she was our auditor, and I picked her to run with me because she understood what I wanted to accomplish, and she was willing to be a really great teammate. She’s done great job.
So you want to pick somebody who you’re comfortable with and somebody who understands what you’re all about, and somebody who’s not afraid to speak up to you. You see, you can’t just surround yourself with sycophants. You’ve got to have people there that can tell you, no, I don’t think that’s right, and then you argue it out. And at the end, though, at the end, once you decide, the whole team moves in the same direction.
I have been able to be able to accomplish things in politics, I’m going to tell you, not because I’m so great, but I’ve been able to attract people throughout the years — I have some people that have been around me for 30 years. And we form a great team, and we keep our eyes on the horizon. And you know what I believe, I think everybody wants to be involved with something that’s bigger than themselves. And that’s what I always try to represent and present in public life. So it’d be somebody along those lines. Okay?
Aaron Rodgers maybe if he had a better year next year. We’ll see.
COOPER: We’re going take a quick break. We’re going to have more with Governor Kasich as our CNN Republican townhall continues from Milwaukee. We’ll be right back.
COOPER: Welcome back. We’re here with Governor John Kasich of Ohio. We’re here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Yesterday CNN reported that your campaign is looking to work or coordinate behind the scenes with the Cruz campaign in an effort to try to deny Donald Trump delegates to get to the nomination.
Is that something — I mean, have approached Ted Cruz directly about that yourself?
KASICH: No, no, I’m not involved in the process stuff. I mean, campaigns always talk. I mean, there is always ways they do it. But I’m not in the middle of that. And I haven’t seen Ted since the last debate. So I’m not involved in that.
COOPER: We were talking during the break about how many townhalls. You said you’ve probably done over 200 or so.
KASICH: Yes. Just like this.
COOPER: And I remember, I spoke with you at a townhall that we did in South Carolina. And one of the things you said to that has always stuck in my mind, I kind of wanted to follow up with you about. You said that this campaign has caused you to slow down.
And I wondered — it was in reference to an incident you had with a young man at a town hall.
KASICH: I’ve had many incidents.
COOPER: In what way has it caused you to slow down?
KASICH: Well, because there’s a lot of lonely people out there. They come to my meetings and they say things — I haven’t seen it in Wisconsin, but I have seen it all over the country.
And the young man that gave me a hug was just emblematic of what I’ve seen all over. I think when people want to feel safe and for some reason they come to the townhalls I have, which are basically townhalls about how we can fix things and how we can be hopeful, and for some reason people feel safe.
And I — that’s the grace of the lord as far as I’m concerned, to let people feel that way.
And, I would also say — and this is important. I want to ship a lot of programs back to the states, but here’s what I really want everybody to know I believe. The spirit of our country, Anderson, doesn’t rest in the president. I mean, the president’s important, but the spirit of our country rests in the neighborhoods, it rests in the people who are here tonight. We’re the ones that need to change the world, we’re the ones that need to fix education, deal with the problems of the poor.
You know, one of the things I’ve said, you take a lady who was married 50 years, her husband died, nobody calls her anymore. Call her on a Monday, what does she do on a Thursday? She’s gets her hair done, then when Saturday comes, when you’re going to take her to dinner somehow not one hair is out of place.
When you pick her up she wears a dress she hadn’t worn in six months. Are you changing the world? I think you are.
When a nurse spends an extra 15 minutes with a family that’s in trouble and says things are going to be OK, Anderson, I just happen to believe — I don’t want to get too carried away here. But, you know? The Lord’s given us all a certain purpose in life, and we need to carry it out. We need to live a life bigger than ourselves.
Now, I’m not applying for sainthood, and neither is anybody else, but we can get up every day and try to live a life to help heal this world. We need the solutions in Washington to create the jobs. That is an absolute — without jobs we don’t have anything.
But, when we shift welfare, education, infrastructure, job training, Medicaid programs back to the states then we’ve got to run them, and we have to run them where we live. And, frankly, state government ought to be shifting more power to the neighborhoods. That’s the spirit of our country. The spirit of our country — don’t you think where we live? It’s in you. It’s in you. It’s in me, and him. It’s not in somebody, you know, down in Washington D.C.
You think? I mean, I hope so. I believe that.
COOPER: I want to thank you for taking part.
KASICH: That’s it?
COOPER: Yeah. I want to thank you for this town hall, we’d love to do another one. That is all the time we have. I want to thank all the candidates, thank the voters who had such good questions. Everyone in this room who made tonight possible, including the Riverside Theater and Turner Hall here in Milwaukee.