SHARONVILLE, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich condemned Donald Trump for creating a “toxic environment” that has led supporters and protesters to “come together in violence” on Saturday, but he stopped short of saying he would not support the Republican rival if Trump secures the party’s presidential nomination.
“There is no place for this,” Kasich told reporters in a brief news conference before an event here. “There is no place for a national leader to prey on the fears of those who live in this great country.”
He added, “I’m sort of to the point that I’ve had enough of this.”
Kasich has said in the past that he would support whoever wins the GOP nomination in the general election, even if that candidate is Trump. Asked whether he would stick with that pledge, he replied, “It makes it very difficult.”
Pressed by reporters, he added, “Let’s just take a deep breath and see where it goes.”
Kasich acknowledged the anger and economic anxieties of many Trump supporters, but said that the candidate was exploiting their “hopelessness.” It was a tone shift from Thursday night’s presidential debate, where Kasich was asked about Trump’s goading of the protesters who crashed his rallies, and quickly pivoted to talk about the angst that might inspire people to support Trump in the first place.
“There are people out there who are worried about their jobs,” Kasich said then. “You can either prey on that and be negative about it, or you tell people that these things can be fixed.”
This morning, Kasich was more somber, invoking his work to calm tensions after the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy shot in Cleveland by a police officer. He said he is the only Republican left who has run a relentlessly positive race and added that he would rather lose the campaign than engage in “name-calling.”
After the news conference, he spoke to several hundred Republicans at a county pancake breakfast, where he touted his record of working with Democrats in Ohio and while in Congress. He began by nodding toward the Trump news, though he did not mention Trump specifically.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “these are crazy times."
CNN carried Kasich’s comments live. Fox News and MSNBC did not, though the latter cut occasionally to a static shot of Trump’s morning rally near Dayton, 45 minutes away from where Kasich had spoken.
David Weigel reported from Washington.