President Donald Trump on Thursday evening, tore into Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a GOP rival and potential 2020 primary challenger.
Appearing before a Republican National Committee dinner at his downtown Washington hotel, the president went after the Ohio governor several times by name, according to three people who were present. The president mocked Kasich, who is being termed-out of office and fell short in the 2016 GOP primary, and described him as one of his loudest and most relentless critics.
At one point in the meeting, Trump brought onstage Bob Paduchik, who the president selected to serve as Republican National Committee co-chair after overseeing Trump’s successful 2016 campaign in Ohio. One person who was in attendance recalled the president heaping praise on Paduchik for helping him win the critical swing state, where he’d faced opposition from the governor. The president recounted the Ohio campaign and how he ultimately won the state.
A Kasich representative did not respond to a request for comment. White House spokespersons also did not respond to a request for comment.
The Trump-Kasich feuded has been simmering ever since the 2016 campaign. At one point, the Trump campaign blasted the Ohio governor for refusing to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where then-candidate Trump was given the party’s nomination.
After Trump won the election, he orchestrated a takeover of the state party, removing Kasich ally Matt Borges as state party chair and replacing him with a pro-Trump figure, Jane Timken. Then-President-elect Trump personally made calls into the state to lobby for Timken to get the post.
Kasich has been promoting his newest book, “Two Paths: America Divided or United” – a media tour that has led to speculation that he’s considering a 2020 primary bid to Trump.
The remarks came on the second night of the RNC’s annual winter meeting. The president’s speech was to be pooled by the media, yet those covering the speech were escorted out a few minutes after he began talking.
The president, several people present said, then finished his remarks and began a question-and-answer session with RNC members. The party chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, went around the room with a microphone and gave the members an opportunity to quiz the president – a freewheeling affair that stretched on for over 45 minutes.
Trump veered from talking about Kasich to describing in detail how he recently aced a mental acuity test – an examination, he said, most members of the media wouldn’t pass. At another point, he described Evan McMullin, a fierce Trump critic who waged a 2016 independent bid, as a “clown.”
He also argued that he would have won New Hampshire in 2016 had it not been for voter fraud, saying that liberal voters were bussed in from Connecticut and Massachusetts.