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Kasich: I'm 'pro-pope'

Posted at 10:22 PM, Feb 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-19 04:04:19-05

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- He's "pro-pope."

That was pretty much all Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich had to say about the war of words between Pope Francis and another GOP hopeful, Donald Trump.

Francis said Thursday that Donald Trump is "not Christian" if he intends to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border. And Kasich was one of the first Republican candidates to criticize Trump for his about comments in favor of deporting “10 or 11 million people” from Mexico who live in the United States illegally.

"We have a right to build a wall," Kasich said Thursday night. "But I got to tell you: There are too many walls between us. We need bridges between us if we're going to fix the problems in Washington 'cause all they do is have walls."

Watch the pope's remarks below:

 

For the most part, though, Kasich refused to be drawn into the pope's spat with the blustery businessman. He was asked at CNN's Republican town hall in South Carolina about Francis' comments on Trump, prompting him to tell viewers to "put me down in the pro-pope column."

"This man has brought more sense of hope and more about the do's in life than the don'ts," Kasich said. "This guy has been so humble."

Earlier in the day, during another town hall meeting at Clemson University, Kasich gave a hug to Brett Smith, a 21-year-old from Georgia who said a man he was close to had recently killed himself, his parents had divorced and his father had lost his job. He said that he'd found hope in God and his friends -- as well as the Ohio governor and GOP presidential contender.

At CNN's town hall, Kasich said he's heard similar stories from people across the country, including a man who drove from New York to New Hampshire to say he was guilt-stricken over not warning his cancer-stricken son about the risks of testicular cancer.

Kasich said the exchanges have made him realize that "we need to slow down."

"There are a lot of people out there who are lonely and are looking for a place to tell people about their issues," he said.

 

Kasich also said he would consider appointing one of his former rivals to his Cabinet: Chris Christie. During the CNN town hall, he said he's been friends with the New Jersey governor for a while and considers him "a terrific guy."

He said the two are "kind of buddies" and go out to dinner together with their wives. Christie ended his presidential bid after a disappointing finish in New Hampshire, and his endorsement is now up for grabs.

Coming off his second-place finish in New Hampshire, the moderate Kasich has little hope of placing nearly as high in conservative South Carolina's primaries on Saturday. In fact, according to the most recent CNN/ORC Poll, he's in last place among the remaining GOP candidates, with Trump leading the field by a double-digit margin.

After initially firing back when he first heard the pope's comments, front-runner Trump softened his stance at CNN's Thursday night event, saying he now believes Francis' remarks were "probably a little bit nicer" than first reported. Trump said he thinks Francis has only heard one side of the story, as told by the Mexican government, and isn't aware of the problems Trump claims are caused by a porous border.

Trump also said he has great respect for Pope Francis. Still, he couldn't help but offer a dig, noting that, "He's got an awfully big wall at the Vatican."