MORAINE, Ohio -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a crowd near Dayton Friday there are three things he'd do first if elected president: freeze federal regulations, lower taxes on businesses and find a path to balance federal budgets.
First, of course, Kasich needs to win the Republican Party nomination... and then the general election in November. And Ohio, with its primaries Tuesday, is seen as a do-or-die moment for Kasich's campaign. If he fails to take his home state over front-runner Donald Trump, many expect the second-term governor will drop out of the race and return to Columbus.
Another Republican presidential candidate, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, stunned many Friday when he encouraged his supporters in Ohio to vote for Kasich. As the two GOP establishment candidates, they've grasped for any way to slow Trump's march toward the nomination.
"Clearly John Kasich has a better chance of stopping Donald Trump in Ohio than I do," Rubio told reporters Friday.
The extraordinary tactic reflects the increasing sense of urgency looming over the 2016 contest as Trump eyes what would be a devastating sweep in next week's winner-take-all elections in Ohio and Florida.
In all, 367 Republican delegates are at stake Tuesday in Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and the Northern Mariana Islands. A win in either Florida or Ohio, some fear, could give Trump an insurmountable delegate lead.
Polls, and the candidates' travel schedules, suggested that Kasich's chances in Ohio may be better than Rubio's in Florida.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols charged that his candidate is going to win in Ohio without Rubio's help "just as he's going to lose Florida without our help."
"When I win here on Tuesday, it's a whole new ballgame," Kasich said.
At Fuyao Glass America in suburban Dayton, the governor said Friday he wants to take a formula that he says works in Ohio to Washington. Among other policy talk in a nearly hour-long speech, he touted workplace training as key to helping the American middle class.
"As they get better and better trained, what do you think happens to their wages?," Kasich said, gesturing to workers in the plant. "Their wages go up. So we have to be constantly training the American worker, because as the American worker gets more skills, the American worker is more valuable, they're more productive and wages go up. that's what we're trying to do in America."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, the other candidate in the four-man Republican race, embraced the campaign's shift toward civility during his lone Florida appearance Friday before heading to Illinois. The fiery conservative's team desperately wants Rubio and Kasich to lose their home state contests next week, which would likely force both to leave the race and allow Cruz to go after Trump one-on-one.
Even under that scenario, the delegate math would make it difficult for Cruz to overtake Trump before the party's July convention.
Meanwhile, Trump repeated his calls for party unity on Friday, but called a violent episode at a rally the day before "very, very appropriate" after an African-American protester was punched in the face by a Trump supporter.
"That's what we need a little bit more of," Trump said during a Friday news conference.
Police charged the man, identified as John Franklin McGraw, with assault. Florida police are investigating another allegation of violence against a Trump protester from earlier in the month as well.