They began with Ted Cruz's flip-flop.
Hours after the junior U.S. senator from Texas announced a change of heart and endorsed Donald Trump, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told an opening-night crowd at the Texas Tribune Festival on Friday that he is not ready to say who will get his vote.
“I'm not prepared to tell you what I'm going to do for the presidential ... not right here in Texas tonight.”
He ducked further questioning on that point by turning to the audience and pointing to his questioner, Tribune CEO Evan Smith. “If you've got a guy just chewing at your pant cuff, just shoo him off,” he joked.
Asked if he’s any more comfortable today with Trump’s agenda than he was during the primaries, Kasich was terse: “No.”
“Everybody's got to do their thing,” Kasich said of Cruz. “He did his. I do mine. What he does or what he might do is not something that explicitly affects me.”
Earlier in the day, Cruz said he would vote for the Republican nominee, two months after taking the stage at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland to deny Trump that endorsement and tell delegates to vote their consciences.
“After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump,” Cruz said in a statement.
That left Kasich, who dropped out of the presidential race after Cruz, as a prominent holdout. Kasich, governor of the state where the Republicans met, has not endorsed Trump, but he didn’t take the stage in Cleveland, as Cruz did, to make a spectacle of his disregard.
And he didn’t change his tune on the Hogg Auditorium Stage at the University of Texas at Austin on Friday evening.
He said he hasn’t changed his mind about Trump. “I don’t believe in simple solutions to very complicated problems,” he said.
“Trying to deport 11 million people from this country is absurd,” he said a little later. “I don’t believe anyone should break the law, and if they break the law, they should be deported.”
He said he believes immigration is a good thing for the country and said he doesn’t believe there should be religious tests for immigrants and Americans.
He said Trump, and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who sought the Democratic convention, are both “negative populists” who run others down to raise themselves up.
And he said he wasn’t referring to Trump when being critical of various political and policy ideas. “We've gotta get over Trump,” Kasich said. “I'm talking about the country.”
He said he is opposed to the Affordable Care Act but thought it was a good idea to expand Medicaid under that law, a provision that is unpopular with Republican officials in other states, including Texas.
“I think Obamacare doesn't work. It's top down. It's heavily bureaucratic,” he said. But, he added, “I had to decide, do I want to help 400,000 Ohioans?”
“Now they get health care,” he said. “They get treatment for mental illness and drug addiction. What am I supposed to do? Walk away from it?”
He said education isn’t doing what it needs to do to get children ready for a highly technological world, and he suggested more skills training could be mixed in with classroom learning: "Sometimes education gets in the way of learning."
He said he believes in climate change, but also in continuing to use fossil fuels. "Our obligation to the earth is to take care of it, not worship it,” he said.
Kasich said the country will be fine after this election. There are complicated solutions to complicated problems, but they can all be worked out. He said repeatedly that people ought to live lives above themselves.
“People don’t want to live in a state of anger,” he said. “They don’t want to live like that.”
He said the Republican debates were “just so stupid” and that “it was about getting on TV the next day.” He said gerrymandering has pushed Democrats to the left and Republicans to the right and left politics polarized. And he said something should be done about money in politics. “A handful of rich people should not be able to decide our elections,” he said. He would like to see “immediate disclosure, complete transparency,” but he added that he doesn’t know how to fix it.
Noting that Kasich is term-limited as governor, Smith asked whether he will run for president again in the future.
“I have no clue,” he said. “Whether I do or not, I would like to have a voice for these kinds of things as long as I’m able to speak.
“Could I run? Maybe,” Kasich said. “Will I run? I don’t know.”
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