CINCINNATI -- Is outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich ready for a third run at the presidency? On Monday at Great American Ballparks, dressed in a white polo, blue shorts and a belt with bright stripes of color, the 66-year-old looked more prepared for a vacation.
Perhaps that isn't surprising. Kasich's second term as governor will end amid an unusual political moment for both the country at large and the longtime Republican politician personally, who numbers among a small group of well-known party members publicly positioning themselves in direct opposition to President Donald Trump.
"Politics are really strange right now," he said. "It's become so much about party, so much about the base. You know, ‘If I make the base unhappy, I can lose.' It's so much less (about) my responsibility to my city, my county, my state, my country."
Most other prominent Republicans have either thrown their support behind the president -- as Sen. Marco Rubio, who once sold #NeverTrump bumper stickers, did -- or sidestepped the issue of his controversial personality in favor of supporting broad-scale Republican goals -- as have Sens. Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
Kasich is dedicated to staying his own course, he said, and that means picking a third option in search of compromise that he hopes will benefit the state of Ohio.
It also means chastising other Republicans, including the president, when he believes their actions are more influenced by stubbornness and party lines than the well-being of Americans.
"Why is it that, if somebody poses a threat to themselves or others and they're emotionally unstable, you wouldn't want to take their gun away from them?" he asked, referencing the fierce national debates over gun rights still smoldering in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting. "Why is it they won't adopt legislation where they eliminate these bump stocks?"
Ultimately, Kasich characterized the modern political scene as one dominated by cowardice rather than principle on a national scale. The latter needs to begin beating the former, he added.
"Politicians are afraid of their own shadows," he said. "They're afraid to make a case, they're afraid they'll lose a primary and then afraid they'll lose a general and they'll get to it, perhaps, in 100 years."
It might be easier for him to speak freely now that he has no upcoming elections about which to worry -- or, given his past presidential ambitions, it might be a strategy to position himself as a more level-headed alternative to Trump if the party shifts away from him in November.
Does Kasich see another presidential run in his own future?
"I don't really know," he said. "I hope I can keep a voice out there. We'll see."