Ohio Gov. John Kasich pitched his anti-establishment credentials to conservative activists Friday, kicking off his address at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) by highlighting his advocacy for former President Ronald Reagan’s ultimately unsuccessful quest for the GOP presidential nomination in 1976.
“He came back, of course, four years later and he kicked down the door, because you need to understand something about Ronald Reagan,” Mr. Kasich said.
“The establishment never liked him,” he said. “They never liked Reagan, they never liked Newt Gingrich, and they don’t like me. Why? We’re change agents, that’s why.”
Mr. Kasich, seeking to make up ground in the 2016 GOP presidential race, acknowledged to the grass-roots activists that the question of whether he’s a true conservative pops up often. Conservatives have notably taken issue with his expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare in Ohio.
“Well, I only reformed welfare, balanced the federal budget, cut taxes, promoted more school choice with charter schools and obviously the voucher program, more than about anybody, we’re reforming welfare again, we have shrunken the state of Ohio’s employment to the lowest in state government in 30 years,” he said.
“Get over it,” he said. “Get over it.”
Mr. Kasich has consciously tried to avoid personal attacks on his fellow opponents during the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, instead focusing on talking up his own record in Ohio and as a former chairman of the House Budget Committee.
But he has failed to gain much traction in the contest, finishing no higher than second in any state so far. He’s banking his White House hopes on a strong performance in Ohio on March 15.