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This was Kasich's final pitch to Ohio voters

Posted: 10:29 PM, Mar 14, 2016
Updated: 2016-03-15 07:50:43-04
This was Kasich's final pitch to Ohio voters
This was Kasich's final pitch to Ohio voters
This was Kasich's final pitch to Ohio voters
This was Kasich's final pitch to Ohio voters

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio. Gov. John Kasich told supporters on Monday that the federal government will be smaller and veterans will have better access to health care if he becomes president of the United States. 

As a final pitch ahead of Tuesday’s Republican presidential primary, Kasich delivered an emotional speech to hundreds of supporters in Westerville Central High School, reasserting his commitment to put on a positive campaign.

“I’m carrying a torch for you,” he said. “I will never take a low road to the highest office in the White House.”

MORE: Kasich on abortion, Russia and 'screamers'

Kasich took a personal tone at the event in his hometown northeast of Columbus. The governor is in a tight race with Republican front-runner Donald Trump, with both tied at 38 percent in Ohio’s Republican primary, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Monday.

If Trump likes to frame himself as a party outsider, Kasich embraced his insider status Monday evening: The 2012 Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, and Ohio's Republican U.S. senator, Rob Portman, both were on hand for the event. And on Saturday, former House Speaker John Boehner announced he was backing Kasich, who he's known for decades.

Paul Beck, a professor emeritus of political science at Ohio State University, predicted a higher voter turnout Tuesday than previous years. However, that would be more of an advantage to Trump than Kasich, Beck said, because Trump is able to attract more than the traditional Republican Party loyalists.

PLUS:  It might all come down to SW Ohio

Michigan’s primary last week attracted more than 2.5 million voters, setting a new state record, according to the Detroit Free Press .

About 1.9 million people voted in Ohio’s 2012 primary election, according to the Ohio Secretary of State Office.

“If (Trump) is able to do a substantial amount of that here in Ohio, he’s going to be in good shape,” Beck said.

During the Westerville rally, the Ohio governor did not directly talk about Trump, but he highlighted a campaign rally where people were "slugging one another.”

“We don’t fix America by demonizing people… we’re stronger when we’re unified,” Kasich said.

Ohio has 66 delegates at stake in its winner-takes-all primary. A win for Kasich would slow Trump’s path to securing a nomination before the Republican National Convention in July. If Trump doesn't secure a majority of delegates before before then, the nomination will be decided through a brokered convention.

GUIDE: When & where to vote in Ohio primaries

Beck said a brokered convention is Kasich’s only hope to for a presidential nomination at this point.

The last brokered convention for Republicans was in 1948.

In Florida, Trump is ahead of Sen. Marco Rubio by more than 20 percent.

Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said Rubio, who has focused a significant amount of his campaign in his home state, would not be able to catch up to Trump’s lead and will most likely lose to the businessman on Tuesday.

"There are very few examples of candidates making up that much ground in 24 hours," Brown said. "At least when it comes to this presidential primary, Florida might change its nickname from Sunshine State to Landslide State."

Joshua Lim is a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau. You can reach him at joshielim93@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @ JoshuaLim93 .