Ohio Gov. John Kasich, the runner-up in the GOP New Hampshire primary Tuesday, brought his call for less divisive politics, tax cuts and a balanced federal budget to the Charleston area Wednesday.
At the Nucor Steel mill in Huger, he pledged to improve trade deals and “break some glass, if necessary” to support the U.S. steel industry, if elected president.
“I grew up blue collar, just outside Pittsburgh,” said Kasich, who said domestic manufacturing is important. “We’ve got to do a better job at negotiating these trade deals.”
“I see you, and I see America,” he told the workers.
Kasich also said protecting the environment is important, but that the Environmental Protection Agency needs to be reigned in.
Earlier in the day, he spoke in Charleston about helping veterans find jobs and access to health care, and he met with supporters at a town hall meeting in Mount Pleasant at a pizza restaurant where the crowd was packed shoulder-to-shoulder.
Supporters there said they appreciate his generally positive campaign, which has focused on Kasich’s message that he’s an experienced leader who’s shown he can get things done.
“When did ‘consensus’ become a bad word?” said supporter Cindy Moury, a retired department store manager from North Charleston.
“He’s the most sensible and logical candidate,” said Hanahan resident Stephanie Jackson. “He hasn’t said anything I disagree with.”
Kasich’s reinvigorated bid for the Republican presidential nomination after coming in second behind Donald Trump in New Hampshire faces new challenges in South Carolina that Kasich acknowledged.
“They warned me when I was coming down here, you’re going to South Carolina, and they are VERY conservative,” Kasich told the crowd. “But people are people. I’m not going to run for president by pitting one group against another.”
At Finn’s Brick Oven in Mount Pleasant, Kasich told his now-familiar anecdotes — he’s the son of a mailman, grandson of a coal miner, and he talked his way into a 20-minute Oval Office meeting with President Richard Nixon when he was an 18-year-old college student.
One woman in the audience told Kasich that she was a life-long Democrat who was supporting George McGovern while Kasich was meeting with Nixon, but now she’s supporting him.
On Wednesday, Kasich pledged to press ahead with a positive campaign aimed at uniting people.
“I don’t know how the Republican Party got so off-kilter,” he said, promising to “help people who live in the shadows.”
He said he knows how to get spending under control and cut taxes, and said that if elected “within the first 100 days I’ll have a massive plan.”
His campaign pitch was right out of the Republican play book from the Reagan era, which is when Kasich was in Congress. Cut regulations, shift authority for education, transportation and other federal functions to the states. Cut red tape, balance the budget.
“I don’t need a bunch of people around me to educate me,” he said, in response to a foreign policy question. It was a rare poke at his primary opponents.
He offered no specifics about how he would balance the federal budget while also cutting taxes.
Kasich said he did well in New Hampshire because “we showed up in the snow and the rain with a positive message.”
In campaign appearances, Kasich touts his image as a pragmatic compromise-seeking member of Congress who helped balance the budget, albeit briefly, and his role in guiding Ohio out of the recession.
Unlike S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, Kasich expanded Medicaid in Ohio under Obamacare, and has often said that’s a decision he could defend before St. Peter at the gates of Heaven. Both states have among the highest rates of infant mortality in the nation.
But in conservative South Carolina, any support for Obamacare may be seen as heavy baggage among Republican primary voters.
Kasich said Obamacare doesn’t work, but he said people should not lose health insurance because of pre-existing conditions — something the Affordable Care Act guaranteed. Kasich said his state is pressing for market-based reforms, working with insurers and health providers.
“We want high quality at a low price,” Kasich said. “When I make promises about what I want to do, we’ve done all these things before.”
Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews