WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ohio Governor John Kasich insists he is not interested in being Donald Trump's running mate, or in launching a potential third-party bid for the White House — but that doesn't mean that he hasn't been strongly urged to consider it.
"Look, if you saw the people that have contacted me, and want me to run as a third-party candidate, or the number of people that have come to me and say they want, you know — 'Would you run with Donald Trump?' — I mean, you would be shocked," Kasich told MSNBC's Joe Scarborough in an exclusive interview. "And, the answer to that is no. I've given it my best."
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Since suspending his presidential campaign in May, Kasich and his team say they have heard from donors and the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, gauging Kasich's interest in launching an independent candidacy. Kasich has no interest, stressing he wants to stick with his job in Ohio.
He told Scarborough that he would have no part of any uprising or rules change before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next month — even as Trump's poll numbers continue to plummet.
"I think it's very unlikely, and I won't be involved in it," Kasich said. "I'm not going there to disrupt. I gave it my best, I didn't win, I have no regrets about the way I conducted myself, and I'm not interested in being a spoiler."
Kasich said he could never imagine Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan ever asking him to step up in that situation, and that he doesn't want to "deal with hypotheticals ... I don't think it's going to happen." He then added: "I can't predict the future. This is the craziest political year that you and I have ever seen."
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Kasich remains one of the nation's prominent Republicans who have not announced support for Trump, but he still has not completely ruled out the idea, leaving out hope that Trump's rhetoric might change.
Pressed with a retweet from Trump telling Kasich that he ought to "get on board" or leave the GOP, and the fact that he signed a pledge last summer to support the party's eventual nominee, Kasich said: "It's painful. It's painful. People even get divorces, you know? Sometimes things come about that, look, 'I'm sorry this has happened, but we'll see where it ends up.' I'm not making any final decision yet, but at this point I just can't do it."
The governor said that when Trump called him and asked him for his support, Kasich told him they were like two companies with different values, and that he would send him a copy of his "Two Paths" speech, a stark warning he offered in April about the potential dangers of a Trump or Cruz presidency.
Kasich still plans to go to the RNC next month in Cleveland, as he has been invited to a number of events in the area that week — but his role at the convention remains uncertain. "I know I'm going to have some of my own events outside," he said. "As to what I'm going to do there, I'm not quite sure yet."
Kasich eyes the future
Kasich spoke with Scarborough while visiting Washington, D.C., to deliver the keynote address at the annual Radio & Television Correspondents' Dinner — a speaking engagement with a tremendous media attendance and national profile.
Kasich is meeting Thursday morning with Sen. John McCain, one of a number of Senate and House candidates for whom he will be raising money and campaigning ahead of November's election.
The governor is likely trying to remain a visible force in the Republican Party and keep his political future options open — whether that means another presidential run in 2020 or other opportunities that might arise after his term expires at the beginning of 2019.
Kasich used the dinner to poke some fun, noting the anxiety in the media about revoked press credentials, and joking that his campaign paid people to take press credentials and cover him. And he told a story about a man he met on the campaign trail who was losing control, lost, and confused: "Hang in there, Reince Priebus."
But the governor also struck a very serious tone, mourning the tragic attack in Orlando, telling the audience it was "clearly aimed at our friends in the gay community. No question about it, and secondly it was a hate crime but it was also an attack, that is branded now as a terrorist act, which we all agree with."
At the dinner, Kasich also remained critical of both the lawmakers in Washington and the journalists who cover them. He challenged members of the press before him to recognize the seriousness of their responsibility: "Don't do tabloid. The country needs depth, the country needs education. And don't do eyeballs and profits because no one will remember you if you do that."
And he had very tough words for his fellow elected officials. "Plain and simple, the politicians are doing a terrible job," he said. "They're failing us," adding that politicians live in fear of special interest groups and "losing re-election."
"They're failing to put the public first and it is wrong — and when I say that leaders today are weak, I'm actually complimenting them in my mind."