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Orem • Ohio Gov. John Kasich predicted Friday that none of the remaining Republican presidential contenders will be able to clinch the nomination before the party's national convention and he believes he will ultimately emerge as the party's nominee.
"The reason I'm running for president of the United States and the reason I continue to run is I'm the only candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton in the fall," Kasich said in response to a question at a town-hall meeting about why he doesn't give way to Sen. Ted Cruz in an attempt to stop Donald Trump from winning the nomination.
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt who introduced Kasich to crowds of about 600 at a town-hall meeting at Utah Valley University and another 500 at an event at the University of Utah said nobody will secure the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination before the convention in Cleveland, leading to a brokered convention.
Leavitt said the question for Utah voters is, who can beat Clinton and which of "two fine candidates will become the best president?"
"Our vote ought to be cast on who we believe can serve the people, who can balance the budget, who can get things done, who can bring a sense of unity to our country again," Leavitt said.
Kasich told audiences he isn't treating the nominating fight like "a parlor game," but he expects to emerge with the nomination and, as governor of a pivotal swing state, can take back the White House. "I think there's two things we should think about in the Republican Party. No. 1, who can win in the fall? I'm the only one who can win," Kasich said. "But there's another thing to not lose sight of: Who can actually be the president of the United States?"
His comments came within minutes of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, who is wildly popular in Utah, urging his backers to vote for Cruz in an effort to try to deny Trump the nomination.
Under Utah's rules, a candidate who wins more than 50 percent of the vote captures all 40 of the state's GOP delegates. If nobody gets more than half, the delegates are apportioned based on the percentage of the vote the candidate wins.
Mathematically, Kasich cannot win enough delegates to get the 1,237 needed to win the nomination, but he said he doesn't think Trump or Cruz will win them either.
The New Day for America PAC, based in Salt Lake City, announced Friday that it had begun running television ads supporting Kasich, part of a "six-figure" ad buy in the market.
Kasich praised The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which counts an estimated 60 percent of Utahns among its numbers, for its faith-based welfare program.
"Are people in Utah changing the world? I went to Welfare Square" to see the church's operation. "They're trying to change the world one person at a time."
But Kasich sidestepped a question about his own faith.
"I try not to wear this stuff on my sleeve, but I do believe there is a creator," Kasich said. "Using God to win a vote? I want a nice view of the golf course when I get up there. I'm not going to cheapen God."
Kasich gave a rundown of his record crafting a balanced budget as chairman of the House Budget Committee and as governor of Ohio, helping the state recover from a deep recession. He said there have been 417,000 jobs created since he took office, took credit for turning an $8 billion deficit into a $2 billion surplus, and said the state's credit rating has been shored up.
Kasich took shots at runaway spending by both parties and said politicians who want to make everyone happy won't stop deficit spending without a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"Republicans love to spend, too. They just feel guilty when they do it," he said. "That's why we need a balanced-budget amendment, to force all the politicians to do their job."
Positioning himself as the lone remaining moderate in the Republican field, Kasich spoke about reaching across party lines to bring people together and advocated for an immigration policy that allows otherwise law-abiding immigrants to pay a fine and remain in the country, and urged maintaining social safety net programs like Social Security and portions of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Voters are frustrated, Kasich said, because Republican politicians made unrealistic promises, like vowing to repeal Obamacare, an impossibility when President Barack Obama is still in the White House.
It could be done if Republicans control the White House and Congress, he said, but there are provisions that should remain, such as prohibitions against denying coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions. And, he said, Republicans need a practical alternative and, responding to an audience question, said charity care is not the answer.
"When they say charity? C'mon. If you've got a granddaughter whose got [multiple sclerosis] and they're going to rely on charity to pull her through? I'm not comfortable with that and I don't blame you for not being comfortable with that," Kasich said.
Under Obamacare, Kasich also expanded Medicaid coverage for low-income residents in Ohio, providing health care to an estimated 270,000 individuals.
And Kasich pushed for rehabilitating people in prison and teaching them skills he said will help them stay out once they're released.
One of those in the audience in Orem, Ben Aldana, told about how he fell into drugs and ended up in prison, but now, years later and with support, has turned his life around and is a law student at Brigham Young University.
"People just love a comeback story. I mean that's America," Kasich said. "I'm a believer that you can't lock enough people up to get your way out of the problem. And beyond that, every human being should have a chance."
Dianne and Lee Johnson said they support Cruz, but came to the Kasich event in Orem because they live nearby.
"Anybody's better than Trump," said Lee Johnson.
"When you've been a lifelong Republican and you're now faced with Trump or Clinton or [Bernie] Sanders, I voted in every election since I turned 18 and this is the first time I felt like, 'What am I going to do?'" said Dianne Johnson. "I can't vote for any of those."
"I felt like he was the only adult in the room in the Republican debates and I like his stance on immigration," said Karine Pitcher, "and I feel like he's a man of integrity."