NEW YORK – Ohio Gov. John Kasich offered a withering denunciation Tuesday of his fellow Republican presidential candidates, casting them as purveyors of political darkness who have distorted reality in pursuit of their own political success.
He did not mention New York businessman Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by name, but their policies were included in a list of proposals that he said were exploiting anger and resentment in the GOP electorate.
Republican voters in the April 19 New York primary and the succeeding contests face “two paths,” he said.
“One choice is the path that exploits anger, encourages resentment, turns fear into hatred and divides people,” he said. “This path solves nothing. It demeans our history. It weakens our country and it cheapens each one of us. It has one beneficiary, and that is to the politician who speaks of it. Another path is the one America has been down before. It’s well trod . but it’s also solid.”
Kasich mocked as simplistic the formulas put forth by Trump and Cruz to solve the nation’s problems.
“We’ve heard proposals to create a religious test for immigration, to target neighborhoods for surveillance, to deport 11.5 million people, to impose draconian tariffs which would crush trade and destroy American jobs,” he said.
“We heard proposals to drop out of NATO, abandon Europe . end defense partnerships in Asia and tell our Middle East allies that they have to go it alone. We’ve been offered hollow promises to impose a value-added tax and balance budgets through simple and whimsical cuts in waste, fraud and abuse.”
Kasich, who spoke before a Republican women’s group in Manhattan, won his home-state primary last month but has found little success elsewhere this election year. He is running second in New York, according to some polls, but it is a distant second to Trump. The biggest question in the Republican primary here is whether Trump will exceed 50 percent of the GOP vote, a status that would earn him more delegates than if he earns less than half of the vote.
Kasich’s argument is one that he has made in less bracing terms throughout the campaign, but his sunnier calls for a more civil discourse and more reasoned solutions have not met the dark sentiments coursing through the electorate this year.
He attempted Tuesday to reach out overtly to upset voters, reminding them that he had grown up in an old steel town in Pennsylvania “when if the wind blew the wrong way, people would be out of work.”
“It’s awful to feel that insecurity, to feel that circumstances are out of your control, to feel like nobody cares and all the institutions in our land have abandoned you,” he said. “But we Americans have overcome so many challenges.”
His fellow politicians have played on those fears for their benefit, he said.
“Just as an all-consuming fear of America in decline ends in visions of American destruction, the political strategy based on exploiting Americans instead of lifting them up inevitably leads to divisions, paranoia and promises that can never ever be fulfilled,” he said. “I say to you that this path of darkness is the antithesis of all that America has meant for 240 years.”
He reiterated his view that his experience as a member of Congress, where he worked to balance the budget, and his tenure as governor of Ohio, as the state rebounded from the economic crash, made him well-prepared for the presidency.
The test of his campaign, however, is twofold: whether a more upbeat public disposition can sell in this tumultuous year, and whether the candidate with the fewest delegates can markedly change his odds this late in the primary contest. For that, April 19 looms as a giant event.
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