Kasich ends White House bid; clears Trump’s path

Kasich's announced his decision to drop out of the race from Columbus on Wednesday

John Kasich, Republican, running in the 2016 presidential election.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Kasich announced that he was suspending his presidential campaign during a press conference in Columbus Wednesday.

The two-year Ohio governor and former congressman was visibly emotional as he thanked his family, campaign staff and supporters without ever saying directly what would happen to his campaign.

Kasich said of his staff, “Nobody has ever done more with less in the history of politics.”

Kasich was the last man standing in Donald Trump’s path to the Republican nomination, making Trump the party’s presumptive nominee.

Photos: Road to the White House

Despite his inability to win any contests beyond Ohio, Kasich held on to become the last candidate battling Trump – albeit for only a few hours. His decision to end his campaign comes a day after his other remaining rival, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, announced that he was suspending his campaign.

Trump told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Wednesday “I think John’s doing the right thing.”

“I think John will be very helpful with Ohio, even as governor,” he said in a clip of the interview. Trump stressed that he’s had a good relationship with the Ohio governor and says he’s someone the billionaire is willing to consider as his vice president. “I would be interested in vetting John,” he said.

Touting his two terms as governor and 18 years in Congress, Kasich failed to gain traction with GOP voters in a race dominated by Trump’s ability to seize on the electorate’s anger and disdain of political insiders. Although Kasich tried to pitch himself as the best Republican to take on Hillary Clinton, the weight of the non-Trump efforts have largely gone toward Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

Viewed widely as a longshot candidate from the start, Kasich’s popularity shot up after his strong second-place finish in New Hampshire’s primary in early February. But from the South to the Midwest, many voters were captivated by his boisterous rivals, and his efforts to cast himself as a nicer alternative fell short.

Kasich had pledged to take his campaign all the way to the Republican convention in Cleveland this summer, but his losses in almost all the primaries left him struggling to generate the money and resources needed to sustain a long-term bid. In an extraordinary effort to send the GOP contest into a contested convention, Kasich and Cruz forged an alliance in late April, going to the states where they were most likely to succeed and deprive Trump the delegates needed to reach the nomination.

As the race grew increasingly nasty on both sides, Kasich largely maintained his vow not to go negative or, as he told voters to “take the low road to the highest office in the land.” It may have been a more effective tactic for dealing with his rivals – Trump frequently referring to Kasich as “a nice guy,” while lashing out at Cruz with names like “Lyin’ Ted.”

He did eventually launch a series of blistering criticisms against Trump’s candidacy, blasting the businessman for creating a “toxic” environment and preying on people’s fears.

Kasich argued that he would be able to win over Trump’s supporters if he gained more attention, saying he understood their economic worries from his own experiences growing up in the blue collar town of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. He insisted that his upbringing positioned him to offer real solutions to those who need them most.

“It seems as though the attention goes to those who call names,” Kasich lamented to reporters in March. “I refused to do it this entire campaign, even if it meant that I would be ignored and even if it meant that I would lose.”

In April, he said there is “zero chance” of becoming vice president, to anyone – specifically Trump – arguing that he’s more of a president, not a vice president.

Kasich, 63, plans to return to Ohio, where his second term as governor ends in 2018.

Several local leaders made comments on Kasich’s announcement and the future of the campaign.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman:

I was proud to support John Kasich’s campaign because I believe in him and have seen firsthand the positive results of his leadership and sound policies in Ohio. John inherited a mess from former Governor Ted Strickland and he went to work to turn things around. Today, families in Ohio have more hope and opportunity thanks to John’s leadership, and I believe he would lift up our nation as president. I know he will continue to make progress in Ohio as our governor. I look forward to continuing to be his partner in the U.S. Senate in creating more and better jobs for Ohio.

Youngstown State President Jim Tressel:

I voted for him. I just thought that he brought a lot to the table. You have to admire him for kind of coming out as a relative unknown without a big war chest and all that. He just kept going around and as he met people, he made some progress. It’s just tough to meet everyone when you’re trying to get millions of votes, but we’re proud of what he did.

Mahoning County GOP Chairman Mark Munroe:

One thing to remember is that we have been, in a sense, in a bar fight for the last six months with these candidates. It’s been rough, it’s been tough, it’s been ugly at some point but that bar fight is over now and we’re now moving into the general election campaign season. I think we’re going to see a different Donald Trump. During the campaign we have seen hints of what he’s like when he’s acting truly presidential. I think we are going to see a lot more of that as we approach November.

Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Washington.

(Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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