As the Wisconsin primary nears, presidential hopefuls are honing in on the state with the goals of rallying supporters and winning over last-minute voters.
Republicans Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are campaigning in the state, as have Democrat Hillary Clinton and her daugher, Chelsea.
Republican John Kasich swung through Wauwatosa on Wednesday, March 23, for an informal, town-hall event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 10499 W. Innovation Drive.
The noon event kicked off 27 minutes late, but that didn't stop the intimate crowd from giving the Ohio governor a standing ovation when he finally walked out on the small, roped-off stage.
He was introduced by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who referenced the University of Wisconsin-Madison men's basketball team's recent last-second win over Ohio's Xavier University during the NCAA tournament. (The team has since lost and dropped out of the tournament.) The governor said ever since Kasich took office in Ohio in 2011, he's transformed the state, although Thompson joked he's still 'not big on Ohio during football season.'
'We are Republicans and we've got to select somebody who can beat Hillary Clinton,' he said.
Kasich, who wore a fleece pullover on top of a light blue dress shirt, started his speech by talking about his Pennsylvania roots. His father was a letter carrier who 'carried mail on his back for 29 years' and his mother was the only one of her siblings to make it past the eighth grade, he said.
Kasich's Wisconsin stop comes after he lost a Republican primary and a caucus in two western states to Ted Cruz and front-runner Donald Trump.
The governor often stopped to interact with people in the audience; he spoke directly to a nurse about the long hours she logs and borrowed a cellphone from a man in the front row to demonstrate how the times have changed. He talked about the first time he encountered a phone booth with his 16-year-old twin daughters, Emma and Reese, and their subsequent confusion about the structure's purpose.
Kasich spoke extensively about the work he's done to balance Ohio's budget and the importance of doing so on a federal level. Near the edge of the room, a large electronic board calculated the national debt in real time.
Eventually, the conversation switched to Tuesday's attacks in Brussels, Belgium, where more than 30 people were reportedly killed and another 230 injured. Two explosions took place at the Brussels airport and another at a busy subway station in the Belgian capital.
'I want to be a good leader, but I have to tell you, I don't know how a president goes to a baseball game (after that),' Kasich said, referencing President Barack Obama's visit to a game while in Cuba on Tuesday.
'We need to be the leader,' he said.
Discussions about homeland security and terrorism were exactly what Brookfield resident Cate Kratville-Wrinn said she wanted to hear at Wednesday's town-hall meeting.
'Just his strategy that we don't seem to hear about,' she said of topics she hoped the governor would cover. 'What answers can he come up with?'
When one man asked Kasich who he would rather support — Trump or Cruz — if he was forced to drop out of the race, the governor responded, jokingly: 'I wish I hadn't called on you.'
Although Kasich never gave a straight answer to the man, he did say he's purposefully strayed away from the limelight during his campaign.
'I will not take the low road to the highest office in the land,' he said. The crowd responded to that statement with a standing ovation.
With the blessing of their AP government teacher, Muskego High School students Josh Waldoch, 16, and Ben Sieren, 17, both skipped school for the day to attend the gathering.
Waldoch and Sieren said they hoped the governor would address things like keeping college costs low and Social Security, the latter of which he did, although briefly.
Kasich asked the crowd to vote for him before stepping off the stage and embracing Thompson in a hug.
The Wisconsin Republican primary is April 5.