Orlando (CNN) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Wednesday he is grateful for the recovery of the American automobile industry, a cornerstone of Ohio's manufacturing sector for decades.
But in an interview with CNN, the Republican refused to wade into an ongoing dispute between Democrats and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney over the federal bailout of the auto industry.
Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and Michigan native, declared in a 2009 New York Times op-ed that Detroit should "go bankrupt" instead of receiving federal funds.
"I think there isn't a single person that I know that didn't want to have a strong auto industry in America," Kasich told CNN during the Republican Governors Association annual meeting in Orlando. "It's just a matter of how you get there."
Rick Snyder, Kasich's fellow Republican governor in Michigan, has said that government invention helped save Chrysler and General Motors - and he warned GOP presidential candidates against criticizing the bailout.
Kasich would not go that far.
"What's done is done," he said. "We have a strengthening auto industry in Ohio. And I am very pleased about it. I am pleased for the families of workers who have jobs."
Kasich said he has visited Detroit twice this year to lure business to the Buckeye State.
Asked if he agreed with Romney's assertion that the automakers should have undergone a managed bankruptcy process instead of taking billions in bailout money from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Kasich punted.
"I just don't have any interest in even commenting on that," he said. "I am not going to talk about Mitt Romney. It's not important to me what he said or might have said."
Despite major Republican gains in the state in the 2010 midterm elections, Kasich said Republicans might face an uphill battle in the perennial swing state next year.
"It's always tough to beat an incumbent, always is," said Kasich, who narrowly defeated a sitting Democratic governor last year. "The weakness for the president is the jobs issue. If he can convince people he is moving it in the right direction, that is going to help him."
"It's going to be nip and tuck again, I guess," he added. "But I don't even know who the nominee is, so until I know who the nominee is and what their message is, it's hard to predict."