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Kasich speech to draw crowd

COLUMBUS (AP) — The city of Marietta is preparing for a crowd as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, members of his Cabinet, state lawmakers and others descend on the historic city for his annual State of the State speech.

The governor and Republican presidential contender is scheduled to deliver the address at the Peoples Bank Theatre at 7 p.m. today. It’s his fifth straight year leaving Columbus for the policy speech.

The speech comes as pressure mounts on Kasich to drop out of the race for the White House. He delivered a third place finish in Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary. He has been persistent in refusing to end his campaign, hanging his hopes on the prospect that neither New York billionaire Donald Trump nor Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will enter the July nominating convention with a majority of delegates.

Kasich and Trump nearly split the Republican presidential primary vote in Washington County, where Marietta is the county seat, according to unofficial election results.

Trump won the county’s at-large presidential delegate vote by 25 votes, while Kasich won the district delegate vote by 44 votes. Those numbers will probably change once provisional and final absentee ballots are included in the final results.

Ohio is the only state whose primary Kasich has won so far.

Kasich will speak today at the 923-seat Peoples Bank Theatre, formerly the Hippodrome. The building has been a vaudeville house, a movie house and a theater stage. Numerous entertainers have performed there, including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and Jimmy Stewart.

The locale gives Kasich an opportunity for some free publicity in nearby West Virginia media markets, where primary voters have yet to have their say.

Choosing such an historic location also gives a nod, if unspoken, to Ohio’s pivotal role in American politics. No Republican has ever made it to the White House without winning Ohio and it is home to eight former presidents.

The theater is too small to accommodate all the media that have requested credentials, so some will have to watch from another location.

Marietta is located where the Muskingum and Ohio rivers meet. It was the first permanent settlement of the Northwest Territory. The governor’s office said in announcing the location that it’s “only fitting that Ohio’s first city — and the front door to our nation’s new frontier” play host to the year’s big address.

State Chancellor John Carey is among the state leaders planning to hold public events around Marietta and Washington County throughout the day. The higher education chief planned to discuss college transitions with policymakers and local education leaders.

Kasich invited legislative leaders of both parties to travel with him to Marietta by plane. Senate President Keith Faber, the chamber’s top Republican, and Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni accepted the offer. House leaders said they had previously made travel arrangements.