Ohio Gov. John Kasich continues to draw big crowds — of reporters.
In two recent trips to Washington, D.C., for the Faith and Freedom Coalition's conference last month and the launch of a steering committee on Tuesday, Kasich's customary greeting to the press has become one of surprise.
"I didn't anticipate this, I thought there'd be three people here," Kasich said as he took the podium at the Republican National Committee. Framed between pictures of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, the governor talked about his meetings with lawmakers on the Hill, and noted that South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told him he had saved a T-shirt from Kasich's previous presidential campaign in 2000 — when Graham was a supporter and not an opposing contender for higher office.
The governor's Washington-based steering committee includes 10 congressmen and is chaired by Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Ohio. Tiberi succeeded Kasich in the House.
"I'm going to have a steering committee meeting tonight and I'm going to be shocked at some of my former colleagues who are showing up saying to me we want you to run for president," Kasich said. "Because you know it's determination, it's directness, it's building a team that I think is what leadership is all about. And sometimes as a leader, you got to walk a lonely road. It's OK."
Kasich has recently suffered from criticism that he acts somewhat like a "jerk," and may not be able to endear himself to GOP primary voters who disapprove of his decisions to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and increase some taxes in order to offset income tax cuts at home.
When presented with such criticism, Kasich noted that he won 86 out of Ohio's 88 counties, and added that he "must be doing something right." The governor also went to great pains to say he was not worried about making the debate stage in Ohio this August, and that he wasn't worried about early polls that show him in the bottom of the pack. He is headed to South Carolina and Tennessee after he leaves Washington tomorrow, but his mind appeared fixated on a different state with an early nominating contest: New Hampshire.
"Here's the beauty of places like Iowa and New Hampshire, particularly New Hampshire," Kasich said. "Iowa is a caucus state and that's motivation and a lot of things; New Hampshire is a place where people look you square in the eye. I was on the Armed Services Committee for 18 years, I have national security experience, the only other person that I can think that has that is Lindsey Graham."
Kasich is expected to formally announce his plans for 2016 in Columbus, Ohio, on July 21. Before exiting the standing-room only crowd of reporters gathered at the RNC, Kasich encouraged the crowd to travel to Ohio and "spend lots of money."