Kasich: If you like Grassley, you'll like me

Ohio governor says he, too, is independent

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WEST DES MOINES — Ohio Gov. John Kasich told a group of Iowans on Monday that if they like Sen. Chuck Grassley, they’ll probably like him because he is similarly independent-minded and would not be bossed by rich donors or powerful special interests if he succeeds in becoming America’s next president.

“Frankly, you’ve never met anybody like me before in politics,” Kasich told nearly 100 people who jammed a suburban coffee house for a lunch-hour town meeting with the Republican presidential candidate. The Ohio governor then recast that caricature by pointing up similarities between himself and Iowa’s long-serving and popular U.S. senator.

“Grassley’s nothing but a troublemaker. He goes and he stirs everything up. He has no fear, and nobody tells him what to do,” said Kasich. “Nobody tells me what to do. We have our differences, Chuck and I would, but I respect and admire the fact that he’s an independent guy. He doesn’t report to the Republican Party or anybody, and that’s what I do. So we’re unusual in this business.”

That approach enabled him to work with former President Bill Clinton and congressional Democrats to balance the federal budget in the 1990s and to stand against defense contractors in scaling back military projects to meet the nation’s needs rather than theirs, Kasich said.

But it has not endeared him to deep-pocket special interests that bankroll political campaign, he noted, so he has struggled to raise money and elevate his name recognition in a 2016 presidential race that has attracted a large array of candidates who have funded larger early-state organizations.

“If you like me, tell everyone you know,” joked the Ohio governor who spent nearly an hour fielding questions and spelling out his plans to create jobs and train workers, reduce the national debt, make college more affordable and meet security threats posed by terrorist groups like ISIS.

Kasich said destroying ISIS would send a “huge, significant message” to the world, but America cannot stop there without also engaging in “a war of ideas” to combat some backward notions about the fabric of societies and the worth of human beings.

Once ISIS has been shut down, he said, he would favor the use of special U.S. forces to meet other potential threats but not try to be the world’s police force.

“I think the reason ISIS happened is because we went to Iraq in the first place. We should not go into places where there is a civil war and disrupt things,” Kasich said.

“I think we need to intervene directly whenever it affects us directly, and I think ISIS does,” he said. “I don’t want to be involved in nation-building. That’s not where I would put the resources. I don’t want to be there for 100 years. It drains us and wears us out.”

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