Republican presidential candidate John Kasich often gets spiritual on the campaign trail, but when he said Tuesday that he wasn’t sure if it was his “purpose” to be president, the contours of a winnowing field squeezed a new meaning out of his standard soul-searching.
Kasich got introspective when a man stood up at a town hall-style meeting Kasich hosted in Kennesaw, Georgia, and told the Ohio governor that businessman Donald Trump was “running away” with voters. “When are you going to live out your purpose?” the man asked Kasich, suggesting Kasich had said that his purpose was to run for president. The man said Kasich should not hold back against Trump and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), also running for the nomination.
“First of all,” Kasich responded as hundreds looked on at Kennesaw State University, “I don't know if my purpose is to be president. My purpose is to be out here doing what I think I need to be doing, and we'll see where it ends up. And if it's not this crusade, it'll be another one, and maybe it'll be a really small one, somewhere in my kid's school – who knows? Because it doesn't matter the size of the crusade – it's the fact that you are in a crusade.”
As calls mount for Kasich to drop out of the six-person race for the GOP nomination to allow establishment support to consolidate around Rubio, Kasich’s perceived uncertainty drew eyebrows. But his message aligns with the faith he constantly expounds on the trail; his preaching is of a more spiritual sense, in which he presents himself as a flawed man whose true purpose is out of his hands.
Everyone is special and connected to one another, Kasich, who grew up Catholic but now worships in an Anglican church, tells audiences in almost every speech he gives. Everyone has his or her own purpose, he says. This month, he has more often told of how he received a “message” or a “call” to run for governor in 2010; he does not explicitly name God as the caller, but his meaning is clear.
Today, Kasich told the man at Kennesaw State that he was not going to change his strategy and that he disagreed with football coach Vince Lombardi, who is often quoted as saying winning is the only thing for which to strive. “I do feel my purpose,” Kasich said. “You know why? Because of what I said here today, someone in this room’s life has changed.”
Later, in Sandy Springs, Georgia, Kasich said he had just had a chance to meet with pastors, something he said he almost never does. “I don’t like combining religion and politics in some sort of direct way,” he told an overflow crowd at an event campaign stop.
But he told everyone that they were special, and once again reflected on his purpose.
“I’m following the purpose that I think has been laid out for me,” Kasich said. “And I want you to know that to achieve this goal—and I’m not sure exactly what the goal is. Some might say it’s to be elected president. Maybe it’s a different goal. Maybe it’s raising the bar and giving people a sense that the world can be a better place. That we can be positive. That we can have solutions. Maybe that’s enough.”