John Kasich: Nominating Trump or Cruz would be "nuts"

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich sits down with CBS' "Face the Nation" for an interview airing April 10, 2016.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich said in an interview airing Sunday that nominating someone who can't win in November--like GOP front-runner Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz--would be crazy.

"What, are we going to pick someone who can't win? I mean, that would be nuts," Kasich said in an interview for CBS' "Face the Nation."

The Ohio governor, who has repeatedly pitched himself as the most electable option in the Republican primary, said a Trump or Cruz general-election candidacy could cost Republicans the U.S. Senate.

"We're not just talking about the presidential race, but frankly if we get blown out in the fall, which I think we would with both Cruz and Trump, we could lose the United States Senate," he said. "We would lose seats all the way from the state house to the court house. And I think this is going to be a big consideration at the convention."

Kasich defended his continued presence in the race and his path going forward, saying he'll rack up as many delegates as he can between now and the last primaries in June. He named a handful of the East Coast states with primaries in April--including New York, which votes next on April 19--as places that are good opportunities for him to win delegates.

CBS News' current delegate count has Kasich at 143 delegates, behind Trump at 743 and Cruz at 540.

"Here in New York we're running in second place," he said. "...This congressional district I'm running even with Donald Trump. You know and the crowds are growing as we mentioned. I mean I had, I don't know, three, four thousand people here, today."

But why did Kasich do so poorly in Wisconsin last week, where he picked up zero delegates? Kasich said it was a combination of a more conservative electorate, negative ads run against him and the "stop Trump" movement.

"I think Wisconsin first of all in the Republican party is far more conservative than what we saw in Michigan or Ohio," he said. "Secondly, it turned into a stop Trump effort. And Ted Cruz spent over a million dollars smearing me up there. And we didn't spend the resources to fight back. We were prepared to live with that result."

Ultimately, Kasich argued, having fewer delegates at the start of the convention in Cleveland won't matter because the numbers can change so much when many delegates become unbound after the first ballot.

"I think you're going to see a significant changes in the delegates voting after the first ballot. And we have like the best people who can know how to manage a convention," he said. "The key for me there is going to make sure that I'm able to visit all of these delegations and as you know the process of picking delegates now varies from state to state."

"We don't know what we have yet. We're going to have to have some momentum and accumulate more delegates and we will," he said. "...We'll see what happens there, so don't be trying to predict how many I'll have because I'm not going to predict it, but I'm going to have more than I have right now and we'll be viable."

Asked to weigh in on the issue of whether Clinton is "qualified" to be president, a topic that flared up in the Democratic primary last week, Kasich said it's not his place to answer that.

"It's not my job to be running around questioning people's qualifications. Let the voters decide," he said. "I think she's -- look I beat her in virtually every state all the time. And my biggest challenge now of course is this Republican primary."

Kasich also commented on a new law in North Carolina that protects businesses from anti-LGBT discrimination suits and requires transgender individuals to use public restrooms that correspond with the sex listed on their birth certificate. Though Republican Gov. Pat McCrory approved the measure in North Carolina, Kasich said he would not sign similar legislation in Ohio.

"I believe that religious institutions ought to be protected and be able to be in a position of where they can live out their deeply held religious purposes," he said. "But when you get beyond that it gets to be a tricky issue. And tricky is not the right word, but it can become a contentious issue."

  • Emily Schultheis

    Emily Schultheis is a reporter/editor for CBS News Digital.