NASHVILLE, Tenn. — For John Kasich, his home state could add a much-needed spark of life to his presidential campaign, or spell its end.
“I'm going to win Ohio,” the Buckeye state governor told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday’s "Meet The Press." “But if I don't win Ohio, then, you know, ballgame over. But you have to win your own home state in my opinion in order to continue forward.”
His campaign has been stressing the date of March 15 as the moment when things could turn around for them, and Kasich himself predicts it will be “a whole new day.” That’s the date both Ohio and Florida — the home state of Sen. Marco Rubio — hold winner-take-all primaries.
Kasich’s campaign believes they have a much greater chance of ultimately winning their home state than Rubio, and when asked specifically about the junior senator and Florida, Kasich repeated to reporters on Saturday, “if you can’t win your home state, I don’t know how you can move forward.”
While Kasich affirms that he is running a national campaign, he concedes that financial resources have forced him to pick and choose some states over others. In addition to Ohio, the campaign looks to neighboring Michigan as another Midwest state where he could see a breakthrough, though recent polls have placed him in fourth place there.
As the primary calendar inches closer to Super Tuesday, Kasich has held events crisscrossing those March 1 states, like Massachusetts, Vermont, Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee. This after largely ignoring Nevada, where he finished last of the Republican candidates in the caucuses, and only pouring attention into South Carolina in the final days before that primary, where he finished fifth, only beating Dr. Ben Carson.
“Our strategy has always been to do well in New Hampshire, raise enough money to continue, you know, hold our own,” Kasich said on "Meet The Press" Sunday. “We don't expect to win — Trump's going to win everything, in my opinion, on Tuesday. But at some point, this thing goes north. And when it goes north and when we get to Ohio, it's going to be a whole new game. I'm getting more pressure from people who are begging me, ‘Please don't get out of this race.’ And, you know, I'm going to be the nominee, Chuck.”
Donald Trump is far ahead in the delegate count to become the Republican nominee, and is poised to pick up even more delegates if he scores big wins in Super Tuesday states like Kasich predicts. When asked whether he would ultimately support Trump as the party’s choice, Kasich said he will support the person in the party who emerges, but that he still believes it will be him.
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Chuck,” Kasich said on "Meet The Press." “What I will tell you is I think everybody who's fought their way to this point through this contest is going to deserve the support of that person who emerges. That's the way I feel about it.”
On Saturday, the New York Times ran a story claiming that former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney reached out to Kasich to gauge his likelihood of dropping out of the race.
“Nobody's asked me to drop out,” Kasich told Chuck Todd when asked about the story. “That wouldn't matter to me anyway. I don't really want to get into private conversations with people. But that never happened in terms of Mitt trying to tell me, you know, what I need to do with my career. That's not what it was about. And I've had a number of conversations with him and a lot of email exchanges. And we just have to leave it there.” Kasich also told reporters Saturday that Romney sent him “a nice email after the last debate.”
When asked about a line in the New York Times story about Mitch McConnell calling his path to the nomination “irrational,” Kasich said he wasn’t bothered, and turned it into another example of “Washington types” fighting against him.
“He's the leader of the Senate,” Kasich stated. “I just have to disagree with him. And, you know, I may probably end up having to work with him. You know, look, he has his opinion and I have mine.”
Kasich suffered a bit of a blow on Friday when news broke that his friend, fellow governor, and former rival, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, was endorsing Donald Trump. On "Meet The Press," Kasich alluded to how “difficult” it must be for Christie since the former candidate’s quest for the presidency didn’t advance past New Hampshire, where Kasich finished second and Christie finished sixth.
“Well, look, you know, I think it's always tough in a campaign when, you know, you have hopes and dreams and it doesn't work,” Kasich told Chuck Todd. “And I think it's difficult.”
“Yeah, I would've liked to have had his endorsement,” he continued. “He chose to go another way and that's okay with me too. Those are not the things that matter, at the end of the day.”
Kasich did however score a notable endorsement of his own this weekend — from former U.S. attorney general under George W. Bush, Alberto Gonzales, who officially endorsed him before a Saturday town hall in Nashville.
Kasich alluded to the controversial nature of Gonzales’ tenure at the town hall, telling his audience, “A leader walks a lonely road….sometimes you have to be willing to stand, and that’s what Judge Gonzales did.”