Kasich hits Trump, Cruz on Muslim rhetoric

John Kasich on Monday knocked leading Republican presidential rivals Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Trump cites tax cuts over judges as having biggest impact of his presidency Ocasio-Cortez claps back at Trump after he cites her in tweet rejecting impeachment MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz, Ocasio-Cortez efforts on birth control access face major obstacles Ocasio-Cortez and Cruz's dialogue shows common ground isn't just for moderates Ted Cruz, AOC have it right on banning former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists MORE over their policy views on Muslims amid a renewed focus on battling terrorism. 

"Some people say what we ought to do is ban all Muslims from coming into the country," Kasich said during a town hall in La Crosse, Wis., referring to Trump's proposal without naming the candidate.

"Are you Catholic, or are you Muslim?" Kasich asked mockingly. "How do you do that?"

Kasich also appeared to take issue with comments Trump made in a sprawling interview on foreign policy over the weekend, when the businessman suggested allies gin up more cash for international efforts.

"We're America. We don't shrink form the world, we lead the world," Kasich said, telling a town hall attendee, "Our country is a great country to which much is given, much is expected."

Kasich sought a contrast with Trump by calling for NATO to step up its counterterrorism efforts, saying, "We need the intelligence, we need to know who these people are." 

The Ohio governor proceeded to take issue with Cruz's call last week to "patrol" Muslim neighborhoods in the U.S. following the terrorist attacks in Brussels claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"We're going to start policing the neighborhoods of Muslims?" Kasich asked. "This is just politics."

Without mentioning Cruz by name, Kasich also questioned the Texas senator's pledge to bomb ISIS to the point of seeing if "sand can glow," asking, "Do you understand what we're dealing with here?"

Kasich noted that a "tiny percentage" of Muslims in the world are part of a radicalized "group of lunatics and murderers," suggesting that while they ought to be "destroyed" the tactics of his rivals were counterproductive. He emphasized working with majority-Muslim allies in the region and suggested a stronger relationship with Muslims in the U.S. in order to identify the "bad actors" in certain communities.

He also touted his blue-collar upbringing as the three battle for support ahead of the state's April 5 primary. His town hall took place as news emerged that Kasich's campaign would be shifting advertising funds in the state where polls have shown a tight race.