Kasich takes a campaign swing through Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said Tuesday that his visit to Tennessee is aimed at avoiding having to scramble for support in the state’s March 1 primary if he emerges as a strong contender from the earliest contests.

The Ohio governor made fundraising stops in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, and said he was signing up supporters in anticipation of strong showing in New Hampshire.

“My focus is really on raising the money and getting the grassroots people that I can get, so that if we are able to get here, we won’t be going from a standing start,” he said.

Kasich’s Tennessee team is led by Brad Martin, the former chairman of Saks Inc. and onetime chairman of the state Republican Party. Other supporters include businessman Scooter Clippard, who served as finance chair to the late Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Bryan Kaegi, a prominent fundraiser for Tennessee Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam.

Kasich has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump, who has drawn thousands of supporters to campaign rallies in Knoxville, Nashville and Franklin this year.

“This is all about having a uniter and not a divider,” Kasich said. “The last thing we need is somebody who’s attacking women, attacking Hispanics, attacking Muslims, making fun of a reporter who has a disability. This is not helpful to building a strong country.”

In his Maryville stop, Kasich declared that, as president, he would put destroying ISIS above other issues, reports Georgiana Vines.

Kasich said while he would attend the U.N. summit if he were president, he wouldn’t be working toward a pact on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

“I’d be spending my time building a coalition to fight ISIS,” the Ohio governor said, referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a militant terrorist group ruling by Sharia law.

Kasich said he doesn’t know how human activity is affecting climate changes, but he doesn’t agree with rules President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to implement to cut methane gas emissions from oil and gas operations.

“(They) potentially can result in loss of jobs in Ohio,” he said.