Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) found himself on the defensive for much of a Sunday interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Host Chuck Todd pressed the presidential candidate to further clarify his proposal for a federal agency to promote "Judeo-Christian values," which Kasich floated and subsequently walked back earlier this week.
"I’ve got to start with when you say that phrase, we’ve gotta promote Judeo-Christian values around the world, particularly to the Middle East, in this atmosphere it can come across as a little anti-Islam," Todd said to open the interview.
"Tell me why I’m wrong about that."
Kasich responded by saying his proposal was intended to communicate Western ideas.
"Chuck you need to calm down," Kasich said. "What I've argued is the Western ethic — what is it about? It's about life, it's about equality of women, it's about the freedom of religion. It's not about going to church. That's not what I'm talking about."
Later in the interview, Todd asked Kasich the key question that has vexed many political analysts and party insiders: How is Kasich losing to Donald Trump?
"Why is this appealing?" Todd asked. "Why is it working? Why do you think Trump is working?"
Kasich, whose affiliated super PAC is planning an advertising blitz to try to take down Trump, suggested that Trump's popularity could simply be a figment of unreliable early polling data.
"I don't know how much he's working and I don't know who they're surveying," Kasich said. "I do believe in polls like you do, but at the same time, who are they surveying? And are these people for real? I don't think so."
Kasich, who has run as an unabashed moderate Republican, has continued to trail insurgent candidates in the face of antiestablishment sentiment. Like other establishment candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Kasich is banking heavily on a win or strong performance in the first-primary state of New Hampshire.
Watch the interview below, via NBC:
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