Ohio Gov. John Kasich officially launched his presidential campaign Tuesday from a stage surrounded by hundreds of supporters in the center of the packed Ohio Union at Ohio State.
“I am here to ask for your prayers, for your support, for your efforts because I have decided to run for president of the United States,” Kasich said to a boom of applause. Supporters sporadically chanted, “Run, John, run,” after weeks of anticipation of his campaign kickoff announcement.
Kasich, who graduated from OSU in 1974, reflected on his time pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science, saying he walked out of his dorm room and onto the 50-yard line of Ohio Stadium to make a personal pact of perseverance.
“I thought to myself: Either this place is going to take me down, or I’m going to take it down,” he said. “You know what’s amazing? I’m back here, today.”
With his entry into the presidential race, Kasich joins more than a dozen other Republicans eyeing their party’s nomination for the 2016 election.
Kasich said he has the skills, experience and the “testing, which shapes you and prepares you for the most important job in the world.”
“I believe I know how to work and help restore this great United States,” he said, adding later in the speech, “I believe in the power of big ideas.”
This is Kasich’s second run for the White House, after a brief campaign in 1999 before dropping out due to low fundraising support.
National polls currently show Kasich in the low single digits, but the governor hopes to grow support with a message that balanced his support for social safety net programs with more traditional Republican themes of a smaller, more efficient government and military, as well as “personal responsibility.”
“If you’re drug addicted, we’re going to try to rehab you and get you on your feet. If you’re mentally ill, prison is no place for you, some treatment and some help is where you need to be. You’re the working poor, we’re going to give you an opportunity to take a pay raise and not bang you over the head because you’re trying to get ahead,” he said.
On the other hand, Kasich also pointed out his views on the importance of responsibility for oneself.
“My mother used to say it is a sin not to help somebody who needs help,” he said. “But it’s equally a sin to continue to help someone who needs to learn how to help themselves.”
Kasich also spoke about the importance of rebuilding the economy and job creation, saying that as president, his “top priority will be to get this country on the path of fiscal independence.”
“It’s not about numbers,” he said. “It’s about vision. It’s about values. And we do not have the right, as grown-ups, to ring up debts to suit ourselves and pass them on to the next generation.”
Kasich was elected to Congress in 1982, representing Ohio’s 12th district. He served as House Budget Committee chairman from 1995 until he left the House in 2001. He was elected governor of Ohio in 2010 over incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland.
David Stanislav, president of the College Republicans and a third-year in chemical engineering, commended the governor’s appearance and announcement to run, citing Kasich’s fiscal track governing Ohio.
“It’s really exciting to have him in Ohio State. Obviously, a lot of the College Republicans enjoyed the speech a lot,” he said. “Great publicity for the university. And I hope to see Kasich go far in this race because I think he’s a great leader.”
Michael Lakomy, president of the College Democrats and a third-year in accounting, said he would be forced to watch the announcement at home Tuesday night after receiving an email notice from JohnKasich.com stating his ticket had been “canceled and is no longer valid for entry.”
Other students affiliated with the College Democrats also had their tickets rescinded, Lakomy said.
“The issue is that Kasich is coming and he’s using our campus. I pay mortgage on the Ohio Union every single semester, but I can’t go in to see my own governor announce that he’s running for president,” he said. “So, that was a pretty big disappointment.”
Lakomy and about 200 other individuals protested across the street from the Union, near the corner of High Street and East 13th Avenue.
“There are certainly issues with which we disagree with Gov. Kasich, and at the protest today, we had an opportunity to talk about those, but I would have liked to have heard from the governor firsthand and hear about his vision for America,” he said.
A call for comment was not immediately returned by Kasich spokesman Chris Schrimpf.
Kasich avoided the topics of party partisanship during his speech, omitting direct mentions of the Republican-Democrat divide in politics. Robert Rusbuldt, co-chairman of the Washington steering committee for Kasich, told The Lantern the governor’s message is one that focuses on moving forward with the unification of the left and right.
“It’s a different message. A lot of candidates try to divide and conquer, and that’s not Gov. Kasich,” Rusbuldt said. “He’s all about raising people up and giving them hope for the future — a very different message.”