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Gov. John Kasich: 'We Don't Play For Second'

Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop at Bektash Shriners January 20, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. A new poll has Kasich in second place behind longtime front runner Donald Trump, in the first-in-the-nation primary state. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during a campaign stop at Bektash Shriners January 20, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. A new poll has Kasich in second place behind longtime front runner Donald Trump, in the first-in-the-nation primary state. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

Recent polls show Ohio Governor John Kasich tied for second place in the Republican presidential field in New Hampshire, where the first primary elections will be held on Feb. 9. Kasich spoke with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson from his campaign bus on Friday.

Interview Transcript: John Kasich

What a second place finish in New Hampshire would mean

“It sure would beat third place. We don’t play for second. You know look, we’re just gonna see – we’re gonna work as hard as we can for the next – I don’t know, what do we got, 17 days to go? And then on the February the 10th, we will sit down as a team and figure out how we’ve done. And I’ll have to let you know on the 10th of February exactly what the future holds for me.”

What is attracting voters to you now in New Hampshire over some of the more establishment candidates like Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush?

“This big network reporter said, he says there’s actually three lanes: there’s the establishment lane, the anti-establishment lane and the Kasich lane. And I think there’s a lot of truth to that. We have a very good ground game, and the town halls are terrific. My message is really one of, yes we have serious problems, but we can fix them. These are solvable. And we want to be upbeat about that fact that if we all pull together, we’re going to be able to strengthen our country and kind of get ourselves back to where we all want to be.”

If you get the nomination, how tough will it be to pull in anti-establishment Donald Trump and Ted Cruz supporters – you or any other person more in the establishment lane?

“I don’t think you can put me in the establishment lane. You can put me in my own lane. Look, I’ve been a fighter for the underdog since I first got into politics. You know, for example, I am riding on the bus right now with Tim Penny who’s a former Democrat congressman from Minnesota. He’s now an independent. And he and I put together the Penny-Kasich Plan, which took a penny out of every dollar in federal spending and the entire establishment fought against us and we came within four points of winning. Look, I was a guy that said if you’re going to reform welfare for poor people, you ought to reform it for rich people. I just don’t think you can stick me in any of those particular designed lanes that somehow the press has put together.”

Sarah Palin endorsed Donald Trump. Would you have wanted that endorsement?

“Well, you want to be endorsed by everyone. I just got Fergus Cullen, the former state party chairman. I mean, I got three newspapers last weekend. You want everybody to be for you.”

Are you upset that Sarah Palin didn’t endorse you?

“No, I haven’t really thought about it much. Good for Sarah. She’s got a little bit of attention.”

What would you do as president about the problem of $1 trillion in student debt?

“First of all, I think it’s important that our young students, those who may be listening or their parents, you know, you should not pick a school on the basis of brand. You should realize that if you don’t choose wisely, you can ring up an enormous amount of debt. I actually think people ought to look at spending a couple of years in a community college. That would basically cut the cost of their debt in half. Secondly, our leaders of our higher institutions have got to control their overhead costs, which have been exploding. And in addition, in high school, we ought to let students and have students be able to take college credit courses that can be transferred over. And if they need to be remediated, let’s get them remediated online as seniors rather than as a freshman in college. And if they have the debt, we can think about well, maybe we can give the businesses some sort of an incentive to help them pay down their debt. And I would be very interested in some sort of a community service project that might allow them work some of the debt off. So there’s a variety of things to say about it. So that’s what I think we need to be doing and we’re doing a lot of that in the state of Ohio.”

Is President Obama’s idea of free community college a good idea or bad idea?

“Everything can’t be free. Somebody’s got to pay for something. My daughters are 16 years old. If everything is free, I mean – what are you, kidding? We don’t live in Lake Wobegon – just everything is free. We got almost a 19-trillion-dollar debt.”

Would you put put combat troops into Syria or more combat troops in Iraq to fight ISIS?

“I would put them wherever the military commanders would say is where we’ve got to start. It’s not our job as a president to try to figure out the battle plan. The battle plan gets figured out by the people who do that. They have the expertise and they make recommendations to a president, and then a president looks at the recommendation and makes a decision.”

But do you think the nation is ready to go back into a ground war in the Middle East?

“Yeah, I think the nation – well look, I haven’t done a focus group and I don’t intend to. I know that ISIS is an existential threat to the United States and to many of our friends around the world, and you got to do what you got to do when you’re a leader. And I think the longer we wait, the more it’s going to cost and I think if a president makes a case that this group needs to be destroyed, I think the public will support it.”

Bill Gates says the U.S. should take more Syrian refugees. What do you think?

“I think we should take a pause on it. That’s what I’ve advocated, and I think until we can properly vet them, then that’s what I think we should do.”

What do you think the government ought to do about the new sharing economy, the rise of companies like Uber and Airbnb?

“Government shouldn’t fight Uber by trying to keep them out of places. You know we embraced the change since I’ve been governor of Ohio. We’ve moved from fundamentally an agriculture and manufacturing situation to where we’re now IT, we’re energy, we’re medical devices, logistics, financial services. Since I’ve been governor, we’ve grown more than 400,000 private sector jobs and our wages are growing faster than the national average. So I think that leaders in government need to create an atmosphere of honoring job creators. And I think the idea that each state, each community should figure out what makes them unique and then try to attract the kind of businesses that would fit. I think that’s a good strategy. And the more diversified you are as an economy, the better and smarter you will be in the long run.”

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars on obesity. Michelle Obama has made it a major issue of hers. How would you tackle that?

“I give her credit for that. I think it’s important. My kids, they’re very active, and my wife has led programs in the state of Ohio to get kids to move, and she’s actually run a crusade to make sure we have better things in the machines, better food, healthier food. Yeah, I don’t think we got to make any laws, but I think that a president – listen, I try to stay as fit as I can. I mean, I work out today, I work out probably six of the last seven days. I’m not lifting as many weights as I’d like to, so that’s going by the wayside. I’m going to get some weights on this bus. My wife has run marathons. We are big believers in fitness, in health.”

Conservatives, especially, rail against schools making healthier lunch options. What do you think about that?

“I think it’s shortsighted. Of course we want to have healthy light lunch options. Of course diabetes is a big problem. Weight’s a big problem, eating the wrong things. Although I have to tell you, I’m not the best at this. If you put some fried clams in front of me, you better grab them fast cause you’re gonna be out of luck.”

Who would you rather run against, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders?

“Whatever they put up, that’s what we’ll do. That’s so far away that I don’t even think about it. I will say this. If Bernie runs, I would hope that I would be able to have more access to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. That’s what I would hope for.”

Right after we talked about obesity?

“Everything in moderation. Everything in moderation. You can’t do away with ice cream. Are you kidding?”


Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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