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John Kasich vows to win the Republican nomination after taking his first state

John Kasich promised to win the Republican nomination on Tuesday night after winning Ohio, his first victory of the campaign.

Optimistically introduced as "the next president of the United States," Kasich gave a rambling speech in which he confidently predicted that he would be the nominee.

"We're going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination," said Kasich, who still trails Trump by about 400 delegates after his Ohio victory, according to Bloomberg. "I'm getting ready to rent a covered wagon. We're going to have the wind blow us over the Rocky Mountains to California."

Trump remains the strong frontrunner in the race after winning in at least North Carolina, Illinois, and Florida tonight. Kasich emphasized in his speech that he started out far back in the pack and has moved closer to the nomination than many predicted.

"I labored in obscurity for so long — people counting me out, people in Ohio saying, 'Why don't they ever call on him?" Kasich said, reflecting on the Republican debate. "But we put one foot in front of the other. And I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land."

Kasich's speech

Here's a rush transcript of Kasich's speech.

You better believe it's about America, about pulling us together, not pulling us apart. It is about USA, exactly. First of all, I want to — [addressing protesters]: Hey, listen, listen, everybody, let me … Now you know, when you went to colleges in the 1970s, you appreciate a good peaceful protest every once in a while. We do.

First of all, you know, when you're in the arena, and you are struggling and you leave your family to go out on the campaign trail and deliver a message to America because … you believe that you are the best qualified person to be president of the United States. And you put it all on the line, and your family puts it all on the line, and I want this crowd here tonight to give a great, a great response to a very, very great talented and fine United States senator, Marco Rubio, for the effort that he has done.

Tonight we arrived in Cleveland, and we went to a restaurant. We thought we could kind of sneak in and grab a quick meal, and when we walked through the restaurant, people started to cheer. My reaction: Please don't do that because you're going to make me cry.

But to have people believe in you, and to believe that you can bring people together and strengthen our country, I have to thank the people of the great state of Ohio. I love you. I love you.

You know, when I became governor of Ohio, I went to New York, and I met with some of the rating agencies. Things were bad. We had lost 350,000 jobs, we were $8 billion in the hole, and our credit was hanging in the balance. And they told me: We're about to cut up your credit card and give me a new one where you can't buy as much.

I said, "You don't understand Ohio; you don't understand Ohioans." So I can't wait to go back again. We're now up 400,000-plus jobs. We're running a $2 billion surplus. Our pensions are secure. We have cut taxes by more than any governor in this country, and we are leaving no one behind. Not the mentally ill, the drug addicted, or the working poor.

And I don't know whether you can actually serve a meal of words, but I would like to go back to those credit rating agencies where they can learn to eat their words about doubting Ohio, huh? And you know, ladies and gentlemen, you know, look, my whole life has been about trying to create a climate of opportunity for people.

You know, as my father carried that mail on his back — and his father was a coal miner, and I just was told by my cousin, I can't realize this, that my mother, one of four, was the only one to graduate from high school. The other three barely made it out of the eighth grade because they were poor. As I have traveled the country and I look into your eyes. You want to believe, you want to believe again that we can have job security, you want to believe again that wages can rise, you want to believe that your children are going to have ultimately a better America than we got from your mothers and fathers. That's the great American legacy: that our kids will be better than we are.

And I want people in Ohio to know, as I think you do … I want people around the country to know that I understand these tough issues. I grew up in these situations in that little blue collar town in McKees Rocks — and in my mind's eye is the need to forget the politics, forget the pollsters, forget all the focus groups. Because, you see, I represent you, and it's my job to look at these situations and these problems and to listen to you, and that it's my job to go and fix them.

And if that means at times I have to take some heat, then that's just the price of leadership in America. Okay? Now I want you to know: The campaign goes on. And I also want you to know that it's been my intention to make you proud.

It's been my intention to have young people all across this country watch somebody enter into politics — even though I labored in obscurity for so long — people counting me out, people in Ohio saying, "Why don't they ever call on him?" Okay? We get all that.

But we put one foot in front of the other. And I want to remind you again tonight that I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land. Thank you. You know, the challenges that we have. We can go to Washington in the first 100 days and fix these problems with a shock and awe agenda that can pass. I think we can rally the people in Washington because I'm going to remind them that, before we're Republicans and Democrats, we're Americans. And we have an obligation to our children. But I really, really, really believe this and want you to know this.

And maybe in many respects, this is why I have been given a chance to stand here tonight and have earned a victory. You know, the lord has made everybody here special. I have been telling people this all across the country. Nobody, sir, has ever been made like you before, and no one will ever be like you again. And young lady, you're here a moment in time, and your job is to find that purpose that you have. Your job is to live life a little bit bigger than yourself. Your job is to be a center of healing, and justice, and hope in whatever way we can.

If we're a schoolteacher, we give up money to change lives. If we're a nurse, we work 15 extra minutes, when we're dead on our feet, because we want to assure a family that things are going to be okay. And if we are a neighbor — that means that widow, who was married for 50 years who no one calls anymore, you want to change the world, you take her to dinner on Saturday night. She'll wear that dress she hasn't worn in six months; I trust you to do it.

See, what I learned as a boy, what I learned from my mother and father, is that the spirit — it doesn't rest in a big time politician and a big wig. You hired us to do the job. To create an environment of economic growth and opportunity. But that's not where our spirit is. Our spirit is in us.

Believing that through our efforts — that in whatever part of the world that we live, that we can change the world, that we can carve out a better future. That those special gifts that were given to each and every one of us in here. We were all part of a giant mosaic, a snapshot in time. Our job as Americans, our job as people who want to live good lives, is to dig deep down and understand that purpose and never underestimate that purpose and to change the world in which we live.

Many of you have traveled around this country trying to help me. You know what? This is all I got, okay? This is all I got, and all I can say is thank you from the bottom of my heart, but I want you to know something. We're going to go all the way to Cleveland and secure the Republican nomination.

You know, I also want to thank, you know, my father was a Democrat all his life. He was. We had a lot of Democrats that said they didn't like the socialist agenda or a left wing agenda or a big government. I want to thank them for coming over in this election and putting their confidence in me.

Because, you know, I think we all know the conservative principles can work, that common sense can work … that shifts power and money and influence from that big place in Washington and moving it to where we live. It empowers us. That's the direction for our country. That is the direction for our country.

And finally, finally, I want you coming out on the road, I want you continuing to do what we have been doing all over this country. I'm getting ready to rent a covered wagon. We're going to have the wind blow us over the Rocky Mountains to California. But here's what I want you to know. Thank you very much and God bless.