NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Ohio Gov. John Kasich argued Friday that Republicans can defeat Donald Trump only if they articulate a strong, positive vision, an implicit rebuke of the growing chorus of GOP leaders – including Mitt Romney – who have launched a series of blistering attacks against the GOP presidential primary front-runner.
“Donald Trump, you will not beat him by smearing him,” said Kasich, speaking at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “You will beat him by having a vision and record.”
Kasich has repeatedly declined to criticize Trump, including during the Republican presidential debate Thursday in Detroit, when he stuck to a positive message even after prodding from moderators. His campaign has hoped that, amid an increasingly negative race, staying above the fray will convince many center-right Republicans to support his campaign
“You like a positive campaign? Instead of negative?” the governor asked. The audience of several thousand people roared in approval.
Kasich has yet to win a contest in the GOP primary and finished dismally in most Super Tuesday states. He acknowledged again Friday that he doubts he can win enough delegates outright to capture the nomination, believing instead that he can emerge the victor in a contested convention.
He once again pledged Friday that he would win his home state of Ohio, which he said would give his campaign the necessary momentum heading into Republican National Convention in Cleveland.