NEW YORK -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivered a sweeping denunciation of his rivals in the Republican presidential race here Tuesday, asserting that what he called their anger-fueled campaigns would "drive America down into a ditch, not make us great again."

Struggling in a distant third in the nomination contest, Kasich came to midtown Manhattan -- five blocks down Fifth Avenue from Trump Tower -- to forcefully condemn what he called the "path to darkness" offered by billionaire mogul Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Kasich did not mention either opponent by name in his 30-minute address, but the targets of his rhetorical missile were unmistakable as the governor ticked through their policy proposals, from deporting illegal immigrants (Trump's) to surveilling certain religious neighborhoods (Cruz's).

"A political strategy based on exploiting Americans instead of lifting them up inevitably leads to divisions, paranoia, isolation and promises that can never, ever be fulfilled," Kasich said. "I say to you that this path to darkness is the antithesis of all that America has meant for 240 years."

Kasich sought to frame the Republican race as a choice between "Two Paths," which was the title of his speech. He addressed a formal crowd of a couple hundred people at the Women's National Republican Club, clutching a wooden lectern as he read his speech from a prepared text and stood before four American flags.

Kasich said the country is yearning for a president with leadership experience and a sunny tone who can heal the nation and bridge divisions. This is a stark contrast, he said, from politicians like Trump who play to people's fears and prejudices.

"To these people, today’s America is only seen as a broken place, and the people who did the breaking are 'the other': people with more money or less money, people with different-sounding last names, or different religious beliefs, or different colored skin or lifestyles," Kasich said.

After a string of disappointing finishes in recent primaries and caucuses, Kasich is trying to gain traction here in New York, whose primary is next Tuesday, and in a handful of Northeastern states voting later this month. Kasich's advisers believe his message can resonate here more than it has in other regions of the country.

The Ohioan is so far behind in the delegate count that it is mathematically impossible for him to secure the nomination outright, but he is betting that no one else will win a majority of delegates. That would force a contested convention in Cleveland in July, where Kasich is betting that he can persuade enough Republican delegates to nominate him over Trump or Cruz.

Kasich said the country faces "two paths." The one his opponents offer, he said, "exploits anger, encourages resentment, turns fear into hatred and divides people. This path solves nothing. It demeans our history, it weakens our country and it cheapens each of us."

The other path -- the one Kasich said he offers -- "is well trod. It is at times steep, but it's also solid. It is the same path our forebears took together. And it is from this higher path that we are offered the great view."

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