BEREA, Ohio — Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivered on his weekslong promise that he would win Ohio’s Republican primary Tuesday night, soundly defeating frontrunner Donald Trump and Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida, providing his campaign a much-needed victory as the election cycle intensifies.
“I want you to know the campaign goes on,” said Kasich, who had promised to end his White House bid if he failed to carry his own state, during his victory speech at his primary election watch party at Baldwin Wallace University on Tuesday.
With the win, which is his first of the primary season, Kasich collects all of Ohio’s 66 delegates, more than doubling his total.
The cheering that followed the victory announcement at the crowded watch party was not Kasich’s first ovation of the day. He said he and his family were met with applause earlier, long before results came in, while finding a table at a restaurant in Cleveland.
“My reaction: please don’t do that because you’re going to make me cry,” he said. “To have people who believe in you, and to believe you can bring people together and strengthen our county … I have to thank the people of the great state of Ohio. I love you.”
Kasich, flanked by twin sections of stadium bleachers filled with supporters, with his family behind him, spoke to the crowd for more than 12 minutes, hammering home the pragmatic message that has become his staple.
“We put one foot in front of the other, and I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said, referencing his efforts to avoid launching personal attacks at other Republican candidates.
Despite his win in Ohio, Kasich acknowledged the uphill climb of his campaign, saying he had “labored in obscurity for so long” in his political career, only to then be counted out of the race for the White House.
Kasich congratulated Rubio for his effort during his run to secure the Republican nomination. The Florida senator suspended his presidential campaign Tuesday night following his double-digit loss to the real estate mogul Trump in his home state.
Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life and delegate to Kasich, told The Lantern that the Kasich campaign is not trying to send the message that he can beat candidate Trump, but that he can beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who won Ohio’s Democratic primary.
“Our goal is not just to be the nominee; our goal is to win the White House,” he said. “We would be absolutely insane as a party if we did not make John Kasich our nominee. He can beat Hillary. Donald Trump can’t.”
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine spoke before the governor took the stage, declaring that a Kasich victory will “set this race on a whole new course” because the “spotlight” will begin to shine on Kasich, allowing voters in the rest of the country to hear his message.
Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor told supporters before results came in that she was expecting the evening to be a special night, calling Kasich “a man who is truly ready to be president of the United States.”
“I‘ve got chills running up my back,” she said before results came in. “Here we are, in Ohio, on primary election night, and our governor is going to win.”
She added that she felt Kasich was also connecting with young adult voters.
“These young people, they get it. They know their future is at stake,” she said. “They understand the future is theirs. And the best way to their path to success and their American dream is by electing John Kasich for president of the United States.”
As Kasich brought his speech to a close, the two-term governor was cut off by a sea of red, white and blue confetti. Kasich allowed it to fall upon him, before he stepped off the stage and greeted those in attendance that had gathered below the podium.
Kasich, who is set to campaign Wednesday just outside of Philadelphia, finished his victory lap around the stage, before disappearing behind the royal blue curtain.
“This is all I got, okay?” he said, referencing the suit on his back, prompting audience laughter. “All I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart.”