Kasich's RNC absence turns into feud with Trump

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jul 18, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Donald Trump's supporters promised party unity this week at the Republican National Convention. Then his campaign manager called the Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich "embarrassing" and "petulant" for refusing to show.

The remarks escalated an intra-party feud that had many Republicans groaning and wondering whether the party could conclude this week's festivities with any semblance of civility.

"John Kasich is being petulant," said Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager, to reporters Monday morning at a Bloomberg breakfast.

#RNCinCLE: Follow WCPO for behind-the-scenes insights

Manafort later, at a convention briefing, said that Kasich -- the last member of the crowded GOP primary to end his campaign, clearing the path for Trump's nomination -- made "the wrong decision" in skipping the convention.

"There were no conditions for him. We invited him to speak at the convention. He chose not to," Manafort said.

Ohio Republicans quickly pushed back.

"Manafort still has a lot to learn about Ohio politics," Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges wrote on Twitter. "Doesn't know what he's talking about. Hope he can do better."

Manafort, speaking hours before Trump was to take the stage in Cleveland for the first time, also drew Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman into the dispute, saying Portman is "very upset" with Kasich and believes the governor's lack of support for Trump is hurting his own re-election campaign. Portman is locked in one of the year's toughest Senate races and is grappling with how closely to align himself with his party's presidential nominee.

Portman's campaign quickly disputed the idea of a rift between the Ohio senator and governor, who are longtime friends and colleagues.

"That's totally false," said Corry Bliss, Portman's campaign manager. He added that Portman and Kasich are "working hand in hand" on the senator's campaign and "any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate."

Kasich has yet to endorse Trump since ending his own presidential campaign and he won't be stepping inside the convention center. But he has an active schedule in Cleveland and plans to meet with delegates from Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Hampshire. The Ohio Convention Committee is also hosting a reception Tuesday in Kasich's honor and, as governor, he's been on hand to discuss security measures and speak to state and local police. He's speaking with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and addressed the NAACP convention on Sunday, an invitation Trump declined.


Kasich's advisers say he doesn't plan to speak out aggressively against Trump during the convention week because he doesn't want to be "rude." Kasich, who beat Trump in the Ohio primary, has repeatedly said he doesn't support the reality TV star's rhetoric or approach to campaigning. The two did speak once after Kasich dropped out of the race, and Kasich gave Trump a copy of the "Two Paths" speech he gave as a candidate outlining the differences in approach between himself and Trump.

John Weaver, Kasich's chief strategist, says the Ohio governor will turn his focus this fall to campaigning for down ballot races. Recent polling put Kasich's approval rating well over 50 percent in Ohio.

"It's going to be a pretty tremendous headwind in the effort to keep control of the Congress, so he's going to take a leading role in that," Weaver said.

Portman has endorsed Trump, but is hardly an enthusiastic backer. He has said he plans to be on the convention floor occasionally this week, but is not delivering a speech.

Ohio is one of the biggest prizes in the presidential election and almost certainly a must-win for Trump. Ohio, worth 18 electoral votes, has been carried by every winning candidate for president since 1964, and by a margin of less than 3 percentage points in the past four White House elections.


AP writers Daniel Sewell in Cincinnati, Julie Carr Smyth in Columbus Ohio, and Kathleen Royanne in Claremont, New Hampshire contributed to this report.