WASHINGTON ― Ohio governor John Kasich, a top Republican leader and former candidate for the party's presidential nomination, on Sunday said the GOP may be on a trajectory to lose supporters like him.
"If the party can't be fixed, Jake, then I'm not going to be able to support the party, period," he told Jake Tapper on CNN's "State of the Union," a few minutes after he noted that Americans seem more eager to hear from independent candidates than ever before.
The governor's comment came in response to a question about how Republicans should react to Alabama politician Roy Moore securing their party's nomination for that state's open Senate seat. Moore is a former judge who was twice removed from Alabama's Supreme Court for violating legal standards, and Tapper noted that he has said homosexual conduct should be illegal, questioned the birthplace of former President Barack Obama and suggested Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) should not be allowed a position in Congress because he is a practicing Muslim.
"Well, look, I don't run the party. I can tell you for me, I don't support that. I couldn't vote for that. I don't know what the heck I would have to do, but I don't live in that state. I mean, those claims are ― I mean, they're ludicrous and they're divisive," Kasich said, adding that the party needs to be "fixed" to limit the influence of far-right elements and he sees his job as trying to get that done. The governor said he hopes figures like Moore do not represent the GOP's future.
Tapper explicitly asked if Kasich might split from the GOP if it continues being associated with figures like Moore.
"No, not at this..." the governor responded, trailing off as if to hint that a time may come when he would consider parting ways with GOP. "What I'm saying to you is, we need to fix it. If our party, if the Republican Party is going to be anti-immigration, if it's not going to be worried about debt, if it's going to be anti-trade, this is not where our party can be. So I'm going to fight like everything I have... it's why I'm on these shows, because I want this party to be straightened out. But I not only want the party to be straightened out, I want the country to be straightened out. And so it's really a battle again inside of both parties, but people are beginning to say, I don't like either of them. And that says something big. So hopefully our party leaders will pay attention to this."
Despite his criticisms of President Donald Trump, Kasich retains influence in the party because of his popularity in Ohio and is seen as a standard-bearer for GOP centrists distressed by Trump's rise. He's also cultivated an image as a uniter, in contrast to Trump's divisiveness, reaching out to Democrats on issues like health care reform.
The governor recently ruled out rumors of his running in 2020 on a joint ticket with Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado.
He has left the door open to running for the presidency next time around.