Kasich vows to win Ohio, pick up Illinois delegates in suburbs
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was in the suburbs Wednesday to try to pick up votes in the parts of Illinois where he sees his strongest support.
Kasich was rallying voters to try to secure delegates as part of his make-or-break push to gain ground in next Tuesday's primary and deprive current front-runner Donald Trump of the delegates he needs to clinch the Republican nomination.
He is the first to visit in a week that also will see Democrat Hillary Clinton in Vernon Hills Thursday and, on Friday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in Rolling Meadows and Chicago, and Trump in Chicago.
While Kasich spoke to crowds in Lisle and Palatine, his eyes were on his home state. Ohio shares Illinois' primary election day, as does Florida, the crucial home state of Sen. Marco Rubio.
"I'm going to win Ohio, and Ohio is going to be a new day in this race," Kasich told reporters in Palatine after a town-hall meeting Wednesday afternoon at the Park District Community Center. Earlier, he spoke at Navistar in Lisle.
Kasich pointed to Cook and DuPage counties as areas where he could do well.
He said Illinois is key to making a strong showing in the Midwest -- a place he told town hall attendees he understands intimately through his upbringing in a blue-collar town in western Pennsylvania, his student days at Ohio State and his successes eliminating a multibillion-dollar deficit in Ohio and growing private-sector jobs.
"In this area here, I'm running second right now. And we did very well in Michigan," he said, referring to a third-place finish in the state's primary on Tuesday. "For the first time I think people are hearing my message. ... This was an absolutely remarkable rally."
Known for his colloquial style, a dressed-down Kasich circled the Palatine center's basketball court, telling the crowd there's "stuff that's more important than politics." In one emotional moment, he encouraged attendees to support a woman who told him her son was a drug addict.
"Just growing the economy is not good enough," Kasich said, outlining an ambitious agenda that would include freezing federal regulations, balancing the budget and reducing corporate taxes.
Kasich drew comparisons between the "ugly situation" he came into in his first term as Ohio governor and Gov. Bruce Rauner's role to "try to get (Illinois) on solid ground." Both governors share a focus on restricting the powers of unions representing public-sector workers.
Rauner has made limiting collective bargaining rights a focus of his pro-business reform agenda -- components of which he says must be passed in order to end the state's nine-month budget standoff. The effort has been vehemently opposed by the state's powerful labor unions. Kasich, early in his first term as governor, signed a bill that restricted collective bargaining for Ohio public employees, including police, firefighters and teachers. That effort was later rejected by a voter referendum.
Former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles, a Kasich supporter, said the two men have a lot in common. "They both have states which were heavily in debt and hemorrhaging jobs. Kasich came in and turned that all around. He's just four or five years ahead of Gov. Rauner," Brady said.
But Rauner is not publicly backing Kasich or any candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. On Tuesday, Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said the state organization will get behind the nominee for president, whoever it is.
Kasich's message resonated with some of those there. Dan Caithamer of Naperville called Kasich "the only adult on stage" in a series of Republican debates often dominated by mudslinging.
"He has a track record. He has the ability to bring people together," Caithamer said.
While Caithamer conceded it's unlikely for Kasich to win enough delegate votes to be the nominee outright, he pointed to the possibility of an up-for-grabs convention.
Others, like John Moody of Glen Ellyn and Lou Kostow of Buffalo Grove, say they're still oscillating between Kasich and Trump.
"He'd make a great vice president," Kostow said of Kasich.
And Wednesday Kasich's campaign announced the endorsement of the Cook County Republican Party, which is led by Kasich delegate candidate Aaron Del Mar.
Where to see candidatesHillary Clinton7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sullivan Community Center, 635 Aspen Drive, Vernon Hills.
Doors open at 5:45 p.m. Register at www.hillaryclinton.com/events/view/2141684/.
Ted CruzNorthwest Suburban Republican Lincoln Day Dinner, 6:30 p.m. Friday, The Meadows Club, 2950 W. Golf Road, Rolling Meadows. $120. See www.lincolndd.org/event-details.
Donald Trump6 p.m. Friday at UIC Pavilion, 526 S. Racine Ave., Chicago. Doors open at 3 p.m. Free. Register at www.eventbrite.com/e/donald-j-trump-in-chicago-il-tickets-22576886074