Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Sunday said the GOP needs to find a unifying message to tamp down the “chaotic environment” that seems to dominate political discourse today, citing a narrow victory for Republican Troy Balderson in a special congressional election that should have been a slam dunk for his party.

Mr. Balderson appears to have squeaked out a win in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, where Republicans previously won with “overwhelming numbers,” as the governor put it. That’s raising fears among Republicans about their prospects in swing districts this November.

“What you had is a, I think, a message from the voters to the Republicans that you’ve got to stop the chaos and you’ve got to get more in tune and stop alienating people and try to figure out how do families do better,” Mr. Kasich told NBC’s Meet the Press. “I mean, you can’t be talking about, you know, being in a fight here where maybe people could lose their health care if they have a preexisting condition, or this business of separating children from their mothers and fathers at the border, or these tariffs that are just beginning to frighten a number of people in business.”

Mr. Kasich was part of the crowded Republican primary field that lost to Mr. Trump in 2016. He’s frequently asked about a potential challenge in 2020, though waved off the question Sunday, saying, “Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. I don’t know.”

Mr. Kasich said his criticism isn’t about the president himself, per se, but about maintaining political independence, as he watches GOP colleagues struggle between catering to Mr. Trump’s base and adhering to Republican credo.

“You don’t need to pick one side or the other. There are things the president does that people will say that’s good. But why not say, when he, when he does something I don’t agree with, for example, tariffs or whether it’s family separation, ‘I’m going to fight him?'” the governor said. “I mean, that’s what people want.”

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