John Kasich seized an opportunity to blast rival Donald Trump Thursday as unprepared for the presidency after comments about abortion ignited a fresh round of controversy this week about the Republican front-runner.
“Donald Trump is clearly not prepared to be president,” Kasich said at a news conference in New York. He argued that Trump “becomes unmoored” when pressed about his positions and then corrects himself, as Trump’s campaign did Wednesday after he suggested punishing women for having abortions if they were to become illegal.
Presidents, Kasich added, “don’t get do-overs.”
The Ohio governor, who is far behind Trump and rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the GOP contest, largely avoided sparring with Trump through much of the campaign. But he began aiming heavy criticism at the New York real estate magnate after violence outside a planned Trump rally in Chicago earlier this month.
After seeming to relish reaction to his provocative positions during much of the campaign, Trump faced condemnation from both sides of a divisive social issue after saying Wednesday that women who have abortions should receive “some form of punishment” if the procedure is ever outlawed, as Trump would like. His campaign quickly backtracked, saying only people who perform abortions would be held legally responsible.
Those remarks “put women in a very difficult position,” said Kasich, who describes himself as pro-life and said Thursday that “you can be a defender of life while respecting women.”
He also ticked off other Trump ideas he portrayed as objectionable, alarming, unrealistic or all three: banning foreign Muslims temporarily from entering the U.S., scaling back the nation’s role in NATO, making Mexico pay for a fortress-like border wall, and not “taking any cards off the table” when asked if he would use nuclear weapons in the Middle East or Europe, among other comments.
Leading the world in fighting terrorism “takes cooperation. It takes restraint. It takes judgment. It takes experience – not wild-eyed suggestions,” Kasich said.
Kasich argues his 18 years in Congress and two terms as governor show he has a record of making change – and that he’s the only Republican hopeful who can win the general election. He said Thursday that having Cruz or Trump as nominee would endanger not only the GOP’s presidential hopes but its majority in the U.S. Senate, where some Republicans are in tight races.
Trying to recruit Trump voters to his side, Kasich touches on his own blue-collar upbringing as a postal worker’s son to make the case that he understands Trump supporters’ economic frustrations and can help them.
“I am with the Trump people,” he said Thursday. “They just don’t know me.”
Associated Press writer Kathleen Ronayne in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.