Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said, "The country just wants to knock all the pieces off the chess board," at a campaign event in Massachusetts. (Reuters)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — In a state where he hopes to win delegates and at least run a strong second to Donald Trump, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) condemned the Republican presidential front-runner's meandering refusal to clearly disavow support from David Duke and other white supremacists.

"Apparently he refused to disassociate himself from white supremacists," Kasich said at the start of a town hall meeting that drew about 150 voters. "Every day it's another thing. That's just horrific, right? We don't have any place for white supremacists in the United States of America. It doesn't make any sense. He really needs to make his position clear, and he ought to do it quickly."

That was the end of the subject. Kasich, who has generally declined to engage in rhetorical tete-a-tetes with Trump, put the latest controversy involving the billionaire in a larger context of rivals "hurling so many insults back and forth." In a short news conference after the event, when asked whether he was also criticizing Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kasich suggested that he was.

"All the screaming, and the yelling, and the name-calling, and the personal insults — if that's what you're doing, then you need to wear it," Kasich said.

In Massachusetts, where unaligned voters have powered Trump to massive leads in polls, some voters say that they are struggling to choose between the front-runner and Kasich — and no one else. Paul MacDonald, a 43-year-old physician, said he had supported Trump until "he got too crass" in his campaigning. MacDonald moved to Kasich, not considering any other candidate bidding for the non-Trump vote. "These social conservatives — that's not where I'm at," he said.

Lenny Cooperman, a judge who said he was leaning toward Trump over Kasich, remained unmoved by Kasich's version of the Duke gaffe. To Cooperman, it sounded like the latest case of a Trump quote being misinterpreted.

"He said he didn't know who David Duke was," Cooperman said. "That's not 'failing to denounce' him or something."