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At Democrats' Convention, GOP's Kasich To Say: It's OK To 'Cross The Aisle'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

When the Democratic National Convention officially begins later today, a prominent Republican will be among the featured speakers, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who not so long ago ran to be the Republican presidential contender himself. He spoke with our co-host, Steve Inskeep.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I want to make sure I understand your point of view as you head into the Democratic convention here. Would you have been in favor of almost any Democrat against President Trump?

JOHN KASICH: I can't say that. No. The answer to that would be no. No, it had to be somebody that I thought could bring the country together. And - but it doesn't matter. That's sort of hypothetical. We know who it is. But the answer to that would be no. It would have to be somebody that I thought could bring people together.

INSKEEP: And Joe Biden meets the qualification for you?

KASICH: Yes. I've known Joe for a long time. And I believe that he's able to bring people together to solve difficult problems. And I think he keeps a cool head. And I don't think he gets easily offended. And I think he's a - he can work with people. That's his nature. That's what he's - it's always been.

INSKEEP: You know, it is pretty common at political conventions that at least one or two people from the other party will come across and maybe be asked to speak. Do you think this is an especially important time for you to have gone across to speak at the Democratic convention?

KASICH: That's really up to the Democrats. They invited me. If I were to say - look; what I'm trying to do is, essentially, to tell people that, you know, the party doesn't have to be your master. You can feel free to cross the aisle and vote for somebody else. That's not some terrible thing to do. In fact, if you see somebody you like and you respect, it's what being an American is all about.

INSKEEP: Governor, if we look at the Republicans who support the president - there are many kinds of people - some are people who simply do support what the president is doing, support his policies, support his personality. But what would you say to a different kind of Republicans who may have misgivings about the president, but who just think they have to back Trump because it's a disaster for the party otherwise?

KASICH: I don't know what you mean by a disaster of the party - because the president might lose? That doesn't eliminate the party. I mean, I'm not quite certain why people would feel that way. I mean, I don't think it's necessary in order to support a party to have to vote a straight party ticket. Furthermore, I don't also think it's that healthy if we can't respect and consider somebody else's point of view.

We have - you know, I was out a year ago talking about how families argue and fight back and forth about this. And I thought it was waning a little bit. But it's actually accelerated. And now there are friendships that are being torn apart. There are families that are being torn apart because of politics. I've never seen anything like this. And, you know, to some degree, I think people would be less surprised or or less worked up if I came out and announced I was an atheist, which I am not, as opposed to going to speak at the Democratic convention.

INSKEEP: You mean that people are shocked that anyone would cross partisan lines? That's what you're saying?

KASICH: Yeah. Exactly right. So you know, it's like, in some respects, that their political party and philosophy has become a religion. Furthermore, for my friends on the Republican side or even on the conservative side, you know, America's changing. The majority of people in this country are going to be Millennials and Gen Xers. And the baby boomers are going to be not a majority any longer. And because of those folks - some of their ways they look at things are different than the way that the baby boomers look at things.

INSKEEP: Do you want your party to take a different attitude toward racial changes in this country, demographic changes?

KASICH: It's not just, you know, Republican issue. It's an issue for every American. We want to make sure that everybody has an equal opportunity in order to be successful. That's just - that's a basic principle that we all should be behind.

INSKEEP: Governor, do you think the president is trying to undermine the election?

KASICH: I don't want to really get into that. I don't want to talk about him undermining the election. I mean, I'm concerned about this whole issue of the Postal Service. And he raises his concerns about it. But, you know, I don't want to get into - I just - I don't want to say anything. I don't want to comment on it, to tell you the truth.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about something a little more specific. The president did say last week he opposes funding for the post office - extra funding - because he thinks it might be used to deliver mail-in ballots. Do you think that's something...

KASICH: Yeah. I don't agree with that. I completely disagree with him on that because I do support the fact that we can have mail-in ballots. And I do support, you know, the idea that people, you know, like we've had historically. You're out of town, you get an absentee ballot. I support that. And I do not support the notion that we should not adequately or aggressively fund that. And I don't know exactly why he's - look; all I know is on Monday night, I'm going to be speaking. Throughout the last 3 1/2 years, I've had my say. I just don't like to get into additional accusations about what his intentions are. I just flat out disagree with him on the fact that we can't have successful mail-in ballots.

INSKEEP: Governor, I want to note that Ohio is traditionally a swing state. But it's been seen as trending more Republican in recent years. It went for Donald Trump. I think just a few months ago, people didn't really think it was in play for the Democrats. And now Joe Biden seems to be ahead in some polls there. Do you think that Biden could win your state?

KASICH: I think it depends how things work out over the period of the next 80 days. There's a lot of chaos out there. And I think it's still a Republican state today. But it's not beyond the realm of possibility that Joe Biden could win.

INSKEEP: I want to ask about Democrats who may be watching you, Governor. Some have pushed back to the idea of allowing you at the convention. One person who fits that description is Reverend William Barber of the Poor People's Campaign, who objects to some of your past legislation that you supported when you were in Congress. Let's listen to some of that.

WILLIAM BARBER: Now, there's this big - you know, that we're expanding the tent. And he's a Republican. I don't have any problem with that. But Kasich was one of the persons who help to implement one of the worse laws that impacted poor people and Black people and brown people and poor white people, and that was welfare reform.

INSKEEP: Are you entirely comfortable speaking to an audience, large parts of which just don't agree with you politically?

KASICH: Oh, of course. Of course, I do. But, you know, look; I don't - I think welfare reform, by and large, has been viewed across the board as a good success. And I don't need to go back to defend my record. But I wouldn't mind if somebody said, hey; tell me about the welfare reform. I think it was really terrible. That's OK as long as we don't hate one another when we get in the process of disagreeing. It's OK to disagree. But maybe sometimes we also ought to keep an open mind because when we keep an open mind and hear what somebody else has to say - guess what - sometimes we learn something. And I'm all for that.

INSKEEP: Gov. Kasich, always a pleasure talking with you.

KASICH: (Laughter) It's always good to talk to you. Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "RETURN TO TEXT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.