VILLANOVA, Penn. — Still vibrating from his home state primary win, Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) told crowds in the Philadelphia suburbs that President Obama had blown his chance to get a Supreme Court nominee, and that the two remaining candidates for the Republican nomination would lose the election.
Kasich made the remarks after a town hall that packed two rooms and a hallway on Villanova University's campus, introducing himself to Pennsylvania as a favorite son who wanted to "get the economy going" and let the rest of American life sort itself out. After one young Republican — a former supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — asked Kasich if social liberals had a place in the party, the governor asked why people didn't "just get along" and offer services to gay customers, or head to another store if service was refused. Asked about the environment, Kasich assured a voter that he thought humans contributed to climate change.
"I have a right to shape what it means to be a conservative, and what the Republican Party's all about," Kasich said, to applause.
Only once, when a voter asked if President Obama should get a vote on his Supreme Court nominee, did Kasich clearly side with his party in Washington. He did so while lambasting them for the situation that led to to the appointment impasse.
"I think a president can pick a nominee in the last year, but the fact is, you have somebody who's created this terrible polarization," said Kasich. "You cannot stiff the legislative body that you have to work with. You just can't do that. And he's had no relationship with them. He got Obamacare — not one [Republican] vote. Then he did executive orders, which he shouldn't have done. It's a total breakdown down there. And it's on both sides."
Kasich never mentioned the name of the candidate he has beaten in Ohio — Donald Trump. Pressed on that by a reporter, Kasich was direct: Attacking Trump would step on his first perfect news day of the campaign.
"I've had a lot to say about Donald Trump in the last couple days," said Kasich, who on Tuesday hinted that he would criticize Trump's rhetoric about women. "Today's the day after Ohio, and a great win."
Asked if he thought Trump was ducking him by canceling next week's planned debate in Salt Lake City, Kasich swatted the bait away.
"I've had more attention in the last two weeks then I've had in the last six months," said Kasich. "So it's fine, and I'm pleased with how it's all going. We really do have great momentum."
Kasich's campaign told Fox News he would join the event only if Trump was present; after both Trump and Kasich dropped out, Fox canceled the event Wednesday.
That was evident in Villanova, exactly the sort of place where Kasich had been surging as Rubio evanesced. In Tuesday's primaries, Kasich easily defeated Trump in every major urban and suburban area of Ohio. He overperformed, and won delegates, in the moderate suburbs of Chicago; he cracked 20 percent of the vote in North Carolina's Durham and Mecklenburg counties, home to Duke University and the city of Charlotte, respectively.
And in Villanova, Kasich was faced with something unfamiliar but welcome — a sprawling, shouting press corps. He beseeched national and Philadelphia-area reporters to slow down with the questions.
"I just need, like, one at a time," he said. When two reporters started talking over each other, he amended that: "How about two at a time?"
Kasich left the building. Within an hour, his campaign received good news it had started to speculate about on Tuesday: Allies of Marco Rubio had dropped a challenge to Kasich's Pennsylvania ballot status, clearing his path for a three-way race against Trump and Cruz in the state where he was born.