ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Now with the New York primary four days off, a talk with one of the Republican candidates, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio.
Welcome to the program, governor.
JOHN KASICH: Thank you. It's good to be on.
SIEGEL: In the polls, you're now running at best a distant second, well behind Donald Trump, and you've won only Ohio. I wonder, can you explain to a wavering New York Republican primary voter how a vote for you can possibly get you nominated at the convention?
KASICH: Well, because it's all about delegates. So every congressional district, every vote really matters. We're going to come out of New York with delegates, continuing to accumulate delegates and heading into the convention with delegate momentum.
SIEGEL: But past Republican conventions have required, you know, wins in five states or eight states to get someone even placed in nomination. Do you need a rule change that says if you've won only one state you can be nominated?
KASICH: Well, first of all, there are no rules for this convention - none. Each convention sets their own rules. And I would expect that the rules committee for this convention, in light of how crazy this year has been and in light of the fact that the front-runner cannot win a fall election, I expect the convention to be open.
SIEGEL: Donald Trump wrote this in The Wall Street Journal today. He said the only antidote to decades of ruinous rule by a small handful of elites is a bold infusion of popular will. Are you now in the position of saying that if the popular will is to nominate Donald Trump, the party should ignore it?
KASICH: Well, what would make you assume it's the popular will?
SIEGEL: Well, more people have voted for him than for anybody else in the primary.
KASICH: So what? When you went to high school, you took a test. If you made an 83, even if you did better than anybody else in the class, you didn't get an A 'cause an A is 90. So you go to a convention and you don't have enough delegates to win the nomination then why would we just give it to you? Let me also say that when you get to a convention there's going to be two things that are going to be considered - one, who can win in the fall? And I'm the only one that consistently beats Hillary Clinton. The others get crushed. We would lose the White House, the Supreme Court, the United States Senate. And furthermore, they're going to begin to think of who has a record of accomplishment and who is it that can be president.
SIEGEL: Governor, do you accept the mantle of being the establishment candidate, the sitting governor, the former member of the House leadership team, the experienced Republican?
KASICH: I wouldn't say so. I've never defined myself up till now and I'm not about to start. But what I can tell you is I read a story, a headline - I don't really read articles about me - in The Washington Post saying I'm the last hope of the establishment, and I bursted out laughing - I was just alone - I bursted out laughing. I said, you know, as somebody who has never been part of the establishment, the establishment is getting pretty desperate for a candidate. But the difference between me and the other guys is I know how to work with the establishment. I know how to bring about reform and change, balancing the budget, reforming welfare. And so I am not in the establishment but I certainly don't hate them and I know how to work things to accomplish them.
SIEGEL: I want to ask you about one policy difference between you and Senator Cruz and Donald Trump. You support the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Cruz is against it. Trump's done very well running against all trade deals.
KASICH: I think Cruz was originally for it before he was against it.
SIEGEL: Well, now he's against it. And I'm curious, why do you think that free trade - long-time favorite issue of Republicans and centrist Democrats - turns out to be so unpopular with voters? If the benefits of free trade are real, why aren't they evident to more Americans?
KASICH: Well, first of all, I'm not sure that free trade is still not popular. Secondly, 1 in every 5 American jobs are connected to trade. And thirdly, as I say to people at town halls where I actually interact with them, when Japanese cars were introduced into the American car market, what happened to American cars? And everybody automatically says they got better. So trade encourages innovation, change and benefits for consumers, and I think people are smarter than we give them credit for sometimes.
SIEGEL: One other issue, Governor. You said that while you oppose - you personally oppose same-sex marriage, the Supreme Court has ruled, it's the law, we should move on and you wouldn't push for a constitutional amendment. Would you fight for that position being in the GOP platform at the convention in Cleveland?
KASICH: I don't - I wouldn't presume to know what the type of issues are coming up. I do believe that in traditional marriage, a marriage between a man and woman. I don't know that there's going to be any push-up there to push for a constitutional amendment. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
SIEGEL: And I just wanted to return once to the rules of the convention. If there are rules that permit you to be considered by the convention despite the number of contests you've won, would the same rules permit Senator Rubio and Dr. Carson to have their names placed in nomination at the convention?
KASICH: Well, I mean, you know, might be. It's going to be up to the rules committee. I'm for an open convention. I'm not for cutting people out. If they want to nominate Rubio, Carson - they want to nominate you, Robert, let them go ahead, I mean, but, you know, they're going to have to have some kind of ground rules 'cause you don't want - you don't want to just...
SIEGEL: But do I need at least one delegation to support me? Do I need a majority of one state to say my name should be placed in nomination?
KASICH: I'll tell you what - I'll speak up for you. If this interview continues to go as well as it is, I'll speak up for you.
SIEGEL: (Laughter). Well, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, thank you for your support, by the way.
KASICH: Alright. And Robert, I don't know if you're available for vice president, but I'll put that into consideration as well.
SIEGEL: (Laughter). Thanks for talking with us, governor.
KASICH: Thank you. God bless.
SIEGEL: John Kasich, governor of Ohio, speaking to us from his campaign bus in New York state. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.