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Ohio Gov. Kasich pushes for unity, but not for Donald Trump

Ohio Gov. John Kasich addresses the 2016 National Convention of the NAACP, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)

CLEVELAND — Ohio Gov. John Kasich visited Illinois delegates at a Cleveland reception on Monday on Day One of the Republican National Convention to make a pitch for unity — but not for Donald Trump.

Instead, the former Republican presidential nominee who skipped the convention in his own home state voiced his support for two prominent Illinois Republicans who also opted out of convention optics: Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Sen. Mark Kirk.

Kasich’s Trump omission came just hours after Trump’s top campaign strategist called the former presidential contender’s lack of support for Trump as the presidential nominee “embarrassing” to his state party.

Trump’s name was never uttered by Kasich, who garnered about 20 percent of the Republican vote in Illinois’ March primary. Instead, Kasich told reporters at an Illinois delegate reception that he’s supporting Kirk in his re-election bid, as well as House Republican Leader Jim Durkin.

Kasich also talked about his big hopes for Illinois, where he said he hoped Rauner could break through to state Democrats to make some big changes.

“You have a real challenge when it comes to Gov. Rauner and I hope he’s going to have a breakthrough. We have to stand with him though. It’s easy at some point, to give up and not stand with him because I think before all is said and done, it’s not going to be easy. I can tell you it’s tough when you stand and you have people yelling and screaming at you,” Kasich said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the Land of Lincoln. You know you can’t have Illinois go down the drain because people can’t figure out how to use common sense. And I would hope that those Democrats in the Legislature would let your governor have some success so the people can have some progress in your great state.”

Kasich also urged Rauner to keep “chip away” with his reforms.

“At some point Rauner is going to break through. It’s like chipping away at the wall. Chip, chip and when the dam breaks, Illinois is going to be better off,” Kasich said.

Kasich opted to stay away from the Cleveland convention, which has made the gathering even more unconventional. Instead, the governor planned to appear at a reception for Ohio Republicans on Tuesday. And on Sunday, Kasich spoke at a NAACP gathering.

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Earlier at an Illinois delegate breakfast, State Rep. John Cabello, the Illinois Trump campaign co-chair, and Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider said Illinoisans are united in wanting to defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton.

At past conventions, the morning sessions have been used to rally the troops for the Illinois ticket. At this event, however, no speaker mentioned Kirk — who has withdrawn his support for Trump — by name. As for any divides among Republicans who are not backing Trump because of his divisive rhetoric, Cabello stressed that the Illinois Republican Party is working with Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Cabello said that the “No Trump” and “Dump Trump” movement had totally fizzled. “I can guarantee it is iron-clad that nothing, nothing is going to stop Donald Trump from being our nominee,” he said to applause.

“We have all locked arms. We are all ready to make sure that crooked Hillary is not the next president of the United States,” Cabello said.