CHARLOTTESVILLE — Ohio Gov. and Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich visited the University of Virginia on Monday as part of a series of campaign stops in the state.
About 175 people, some of whom appeared to be supporters of the candidate and others who said they were interested to hear what he had to say, showed up at the Miller Center of Public Affairs as Kasich spoke about national security and how he’s portrayed against the other Republican candidates, among other topics.
Kasich came to UVa to take part in “American Forum,” a weekly public affairs TV program hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Douglas Blackmon.
At the beginning of their conversation, Blackmon asked Kasich if he was a moderate in the Republican race — something he has been described as on several occasions when distinguishing Kasich from the rest of the field. He replied that he was not.
“I’ve been a conservative all my life,” Kasich said.
On national security, Kasich, who served on the House Armed Services Committee while he was a U.S. representative, said he doesn’t believe in getting involved in foreign conflicts and “civil wars” unless America’s direct interests are “threatened.”
“And that involves ISIS and a coalition like we had in the first Gulf War, but civil wars are a prescription for a long, drawn-out, bloody, costly situation that we should not be in,” he said.
Kasich, 63, also touched on a social issue that is often not embraced by the right, and especially in the recent Republican primaries: gay marriage. Kasich has said that he believes in marriage between one man and one woman, but has said before, and said again at the Miller Center, that it’s time to move on.
“People talk about religious liberty, and I think frankly our churches should not be forced to do anything that’s not consistent with them, but if you’re a cupcake maker and someone wants a cupcake, make them a cupcake,” he said. “Let’s not have a big lawsuit or argument over all this stuff. Move on.”
Kasich took time before the taping of “American Forum” to talk with those who came out but were not able to secure a seat inside the Miller Center.
Kasich, who is serving his second term as governor of Ohio, is trailing in the polls both in Virginia and nationally.
According to a recent poll from Christopher Newport University, Kasich is only polling at 7 percent, tied for fourth with Ben Carson, in the state. The poll was conducted before four candidates — Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore — dropped out of the race, but Kasich was polling ahead of all of them.
Nationally, Kasich pulls in the same percent as he does in Virginia, according to a recent USA Today-Suffolk University poll.
Kasich’s most notable primary accomplishment was in New Hampshire, where he came in second to Donald Trump. He placed fifth in the recent South Carolina Republican primary.
Kasich drew some criticism Monday for comments having to do with women that he made earlier in the day.
During an event in Fairfax, Kasich said, “many women, who left their kitchens to go out and go door-to-door and to put yard signs up for me” as he was talking about support in earlier years of his political career.
Chris Schrimpf, Kasich’s campaign spokesman, later responded in a statement by saying Kasich’s campaigns have “always been homegrown affairs” and that many of Kasich’s early campaign teams were “made up of stay-at-home moms who believed deeply in the changes he wanted to bring to them and their families.”