GULFPORT, MS. — Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday said those calling on him to end his presidential run need to "chill out” and made the case he is the GOP candidate with the best chance at defeating Donald Trump in the primary.
"If I get out, which I’m not going to do, Trump is absolutely going to be the nominee,” Kasich told reporters after a town hall here. "End of story.”
"I’m telling ya – I’m going to stay in for a long time. I’m going all the way,” he continued. Kasich said he believes he will gather enough delegates to win, and claimed he has the best chance of any candidate to defeat Trump key upcoming primaries — like the one in his home state of Ohio on March 15.
Kasich followed up a fifth place finish in South Carolina by coming in last place among the remaining GOP candidates competing in Tuesday’s Nevada caucuses. His campaign, however, largely skipped over both states, instead focusing on more favorable primaries taking place March 1.
"We’re thinking about Vermont, Massachusetts. Virginia is important to us. I don’t know how we’ll do here yet, but we’ve got support here in this state, and at some point it’s going to go north. And when it goes north to Illinois and Ohio and Michigan…you’re gonna see things happening.”
Kasich points a comparison of the delegates he has received versus the state of his financial campaign contrasted to the rest of the field. "We've spent far less money than other campaign and my delegate count is frankly within a shadow of everybody else and they've spent a fortune of money and a big chunk of their money attacking me,” he said. "So we're not going anywhere, folks.”
At events across the south for the last few days, Kasich has faced repeated questions from voters at his town halls asking how he can ultimately emerge out of the Republican field and take on Trump. A man in Kennesaw, Georgia Tuesday asked Kasich when he would “take the gloves off” and go after Trump and Rubio, and another woman at the Georgia event told Kasich that she worried Trump "really captured our imagination because he knows our emotion. And your campaign has not captured the imagination of the American people and that's why you're where you're at.”
In Gulfport, a man told Kasich he believes the governor is the most "qualified" and “compassionate," but that he wonders how Kasich can ultimately defeat Trump when the frontrunner keeps surpassing the rest of the field in the early voting states.
“The race consolidates, I beat Trump,” Kasich said.
“I think he has a ceiling. And hopefully the race will consolidate and I’ll be in a position to be able to go mono-y-mono and then lay out my stuff and let him lay out his and we’ll see where we are."
Another man in Gulfport asked Kasich about his thoughts on the possibility of Kasich being vice president, saying "the good Lord is calling you to lead this country, if you can be number one, if not, guess what, number 2 gets it all done."
"You know, I don’t know what you know about McKees Rocks. Pennsylvania,” Kasich said, referring to his home town. “We don’t run for number two. I’m sorry. It doesn’t work that way.”
“We have 54 of these races all over and we’ve had four. So everybody just needs to chill out,” he told his town hall. "We’ve got a long way to go.”