John Kasich to Joe Scarborough: I'm not interested in being a 'spoiler' at RNC

GOP leaders distance themselves from Trump

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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MT. PLEASANT, SC - FEBRUARY 10: Republican presidential candidate John Kasich talks to an overflow crowd outside of Finn's Brick Oven Pizza February 10, 2016 in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. The South Carolina Republican primary will be held Saturday, February 20. (Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
11/3/95 - Rep. John R. Kasich (R-OH), seated 2nd from left, and Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) in the dark suit standing, go over their response to President Clinton's radio address just prior to recording the radio broadcast in the Senate studio. Kasich was casually dressed as the House was out of session for the weekend. (Photo by Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
D:\BOB\budget3.tif - slug: NA/BUDGET date: May 2, 1997 photog: Robert A. Reeder TWP The Rotunda of the Capitol description: GOP happy with their signed budget John R. Kasich (R-OH) is having a particularly good time during the GOP announcement of a new budget in the Rotunda of the Capitol. In front of him is Speaker Newt Gingrich. (Photo by Robert A. Reeder/The Washington Post/Getty Images)
P 350430 022 2May99 Manchester, Nh John Kasich (R-Oh), At The First-In-The-Nation Primary Kick-Off Weekend. (Photo By Jonathan Elderfield/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 02: HOUSE ARMED SERVICES--John R. Kasich, R-Ohio, and Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., talk during House Armed Services Committee hearing on the president's fiscal year 2000 defence budget authorization budget request. (Photo by Douglas Graham/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
Former Ohio congressman John Kasich attends the Republican National Convention at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, Wednesday, September 3, 2008. (Photo by Harry E. Walker/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC- Dec. 01: Governor-elect John Kasich, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, during a news conference after their meeting with other Republican members and governors-elect. Boehner is the presumed House Speaker for the 112th Congress. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
John Kasich, governor of Ohio, speaks during a groundbreaking ceremony for the Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Friday, Jan. 14, 2011. The Cleveland Medical Mart and Convention Center will include a 100,000 square foot medical mart and an adjoining convention center with 230,000 square feet of exhibit hall space. The facility is expected to open in September 2013. Photographer: David Maxwell/Bloomberg via Getty Images
COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 30: Ohio Governor John Kasich works long hours with staff on his new budget proposal at his office, in the Ohio State House office, Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, March 30, 2011. Newly elected republican Ohio Governor John Kasich is working toward to balancing an Ohio budget in deficit through a budget proposal with extensive budget cuts, spending reform, and changes in labor laws, including restrictions on collective bargaining. (Photo by Melina Mara/ The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (2nd L) waves alongside Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman (L) and Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) during a campaign stop at Tom's Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville, Ohio, on August 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 28: Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks at the 2012 Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - JULY 21: Ohio Governor John Kasich gives his speech announcing his 2016 Presidential candidacy at the Ohio Student Union, at The Ohio State University on July 21, 2015 in Columbus, Ohio. Kasich became the 16th candidate to officially enter the race for the Republican presidential nomination. (Photo by Ty Wright/Getty Images)
CONCORD, NH - FEBRUARY 09: Republican presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich waves to the crowd after speaking at a campaign gathering with supporters upon placing second place in the New Hampshire republican primary on February 9, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. Kasich lost the Republican primary to Donald Trump, though he upset fellow Republican governors Chris Christie and former Governor Jeb Bush. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

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."

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