John Kasich's Campaign Gets a Rocket Boost With Pledged Support of Astronauts

Three former astronauts have endorsed the Ohio governor's presidential run.

ByBEN GITTLESON
April 22, 2016, 7:47 AM

— -- Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich stands out from his opponents with a unique set of out-of-this-world endorsements: a trio of astronauts who have thrown their support behind his White House candidacy.

The endorsements were not any part of a concerted effort to nab backing from the space community – the Ohio governor has not even articulated any policy on space – but instead came about from personal connections and individual political leanings, Kasich’s campaign told ABC News.

Steve Oswald, who piloted two missions on the Space Shuttle Discovery in the early 1990s, said his backing last month came about when his wife, former U.S. Rep. Mary Bono (R-California), announced her own endorsement of Kasich. “She basically says he’s always been a solid citizen,” Oswald told ABC News.

Kasich’s campaign reached out to Bono first, then to Oswald, to gauge his interest, and the choice was clear, Oswald said.

“I think astronauts are pretty rational thinkers,” he said. “We tend to just work things through logically, and, you know, this is a no-brainer for me.”

It was his first endorsement of a politician, and he could not see himself supporting Kasich’s opponents, Oswald said. “I don’t frankly know how he’s going to get the nomination,” Oswald said, “but better to support somebody that you think could do a good job.”

Eugene Cernan, who in 1972 became the last man to walk on the moon, told ABC News that the Kasich campaign reached out to him after he made his feelings “known." He previously endorsed then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry's bid for the White House in 2012.

Kasich is “the kind of guy who believes he can do himself what he’s telling me he can do,” Cernan said. “When I listen to him talk, I see sincerity.” The Kasich campaign announced the Illinois native’s endorsement two days before Illinois' GOP primary last month.

A third astronaut, William Readdy, publicly backed Kasich, too, but he did not respond to calls and emails from ABC News requesting comment.

The space program has not yet become a topic of discussion in the 2016 presidential race.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the Republican nominating race in February, called himself a “space guy.” But of the remaining GOP candidates, only Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has expressed any space-related policy.

Cruz’s home state plays host to astronauts and others linked to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, and last year, he became chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Science, Space, and Competitiveness. He has called for NASA to increase space exploration.

While Kasich has not articulated a position on U.S. space policy, a super PAC supporting him, New Day for America, released a television advertisement last year that featured footage of astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon and another in February where Kasich referenced moon landings.

“I was one of the chief architects of balancing the budget,” Kasich said in the advertisement. “It’s the first time we did it since man walked on the moon. We haven’t done it since.”

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