Pennsylvania and four other states go to the polls Tuesday. In the Keystone State, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are ahead in the polls. Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson speaks with Republican Congressman Charlie Dent, who is supporting John Kasich.
Interview Highlights: Rep. Charlie Dent
On whether Kasich can get the support he needs to be a viable candidate
“We knew that Donald Trump went into New York with a strong advantage, being from New York, and we understood that. But now here we are, coming back into Pennsylvania. Governor Kasich, I believe, is going to be well positioned to do well here. I’m not yet ready to predict victory, but I believe we will do well, simply because the governor is a native son of Pennsylvania, he clearly in my view is by far the candidate with the best leadership experience and also he’s humble enough to listen to the American people and he’s reasonable enough to build a consensus while maintaining principle and he’s strong enough to bring real, effective governance to the White House and those are the reasons I’m supporting him.”
How well does he need to do in Pennsylvania?
“Obviously we want him to win, but I guess one of the challenges of these primaries, it seems about 30 percent of Republican primary voters are participating, and of that, in the case of Donald Trump, he’s been getting a third of that 30 percent and I think we need to start focusing this election campaign on electability. This is where I think Governor Kasich must continue to hammer this point home. In every head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton, it keeps showing that Governor Kasich is beating her soundly. The flipside of that is, both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are consistently being beaten by Hillary Clinton pretty badly.”
Does that tell you that Republican voters are not concerned with electability?
“Well that’s why we’re going to have a Republican convention in Cleveland. In Cleveland, there are going to be a lot of delegates who will be attending who are sharp and savvy political people, and I’ve always felt that the role of the party convention was to make sure that the party nominates the strongest candidate to win in November - of good character. I’m not at all impressed by those who say we must nominate the one with the most votes, even though they are short of the majority, I’m not impressed by that argument. I want to win, I don’t want to make a point.”
If the Republican Party does nominate Donald Trump, will you support him?
“Well, I’m fighting for Governor Kasich. I’m gonna cross that bridge if I get to it, but I have said publically and I’ll say it again, given so many of the comments that Donald Trump has made over the last several months, and particularly the last month, many of those comments call into question his fitness to serve in the highest office in the land, and so I am deeply concerned about it. By the same token, Senator Cruz is obviously very ideological and absolutist in his approach to governance. He really only has two significant accomplishments as far as I’m concerned as a senator, and I don’t know that I’d brag about them. One being that he was able to orchestrate a government shutdown and two, he figured out a way to get 98 out of 100 senators to dislike him.”
Will you go to the convention, no matter what?
“If the convention is open, I intend to attend. If it’s sewed up before then, probably not.”
Would you run as a Republican if Donald Trump was at the head of the ticket? Would you become an Independent?
“No, I’m a Republican. I’m a Republican in a traditional sense. I’m proud to be a member of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. I’m proud to be a part of that political party and I’m not going to let any nominee try to redefine the party of Abraham Lincoln.”
Are you worried that the party will change or break up because of the current situation?
“There are days where I start to think that we are experiencing a political realignment, right beneath our feet, and if that is in fact the case, and I’m not sure that it is, but there’s a chance of that, that will affect both political parties, not just one if there’s a realignment. I believe the Republican Party will weather the storm regardless of what happens, and here’s another thing I want to say about this, there are going to be hurt feelings in Cleveland no matter what happens. If Donald Trump is short of the nomination and with most votes but unable to secure a majority at the convention, there will be hurt feelings. If Donald Trump does receive the nomination, I will tell you there will probably be hurt feelings, because I keep seeing polls out there that suggest that somewhere around 30 percent, or a third of Republicans may walk away from him if he is the nominee. Again, some of us actually want to win the presidency.”
On the mood of Pennsylvania Republicans
“I think Republicans in Pennsylvania are probably not terribly different from Republicans in other areas of the Northeast mid-Atlantic region and maybe the Midwest. I would suspect the big battle would be between Governor Kasich and Donald Trump. I think a more rigid ideologue like Senator Cruz will have a tougher time in much of the commonwealth, particularly in the suburban Pittsburgh area and the collar counties of Philadelphia.”
On Trump’s connections with Philadelphia
“He did go to Wharton, that’s true. A lot of Pennsylvanians go down to the Jersey Shore, I’m one of them. But when I go there, I’m not thinking of Donald Trump. I go there for different reasons, like the beach. Governor Kasich’s from McKees Rocks, let’s face it, he’s got, I would say, an arguably much stronger tie to Pennsylvania. He lived here for 18 years of his life, heck he speaks English with a Pittsburgh accent. Listen to Governor Kasich speak, that is most definitely a Pittsburgh accent.”
Which do you like better, the Pittsburgh accent or the Philly accent?
“I prefer the Pennsylvania Dutch accent, being half Pennsylvania-German, I can say that.”
This segment aired on April 25, 2016.