Gregory Caruso went viral as the "Hot Debate Guy" during the second Republican debate in September 2015.
Courtesy Gregory Caruso
February 25, 2016 5:30 AM EST

The man who became known as “Hot Debate Guy” after captivating the Internet during a Republican primary debate last year has decided which GOP candidate will get his vote for President.

Gregory Caruso, 24, is throwing his support behind Ohio Gov. John Kasich and hopes his short-lived time in the spotlight influences other young voters, he told TIME this week. “Obviously, I feel kind of lucky that that happened,” he said in a phone interview ahead of Thursday night’s debate. “I thought more than anything, overall, it was weird. But because of that, I think there is an opportunity for me to speak up.”

The decision comes about five months after the Los Angeles filmmaker went viral simply by sitting behind moderator Jake Tapper during the September CNN debate in California, which grabbed the attention of many TV viewers.

“You don’t have to care [what I think], and I understand if people don’t, but I do think that young people have a voice,” Caruso said. “They can make a change and influence the outcome. I do have somewhat of a name recognition now, and I feel somewhat of a responsibility, or motivation rather, to use it as I can—positively.”

Caruso said he first met Kasich last year during a casual sit-down in Los Angeles with the Ohio governor and Caruso’s father Rick, a politically active real estate developer. “I was impressed by him, but it was earlier in the race and I wanted to see where the primaries ended up and whatnot,” Caruso said of Kasich. “It’s refreshing because he’s really down to Earth. He’s a normal guy with great experience, and he’s smart. I think that’s really what did it for me at the end of the day.”

Kasich has been largely overshadowed in the race next to the more bombastic frontrunner Donald Trump. The governor may even be on his way to losing the primary in his home state, according to a recent poll. “That definitely scares me,” Caruso said of Trump’s growing success with voters. “Honestly, I think it’s embarrassing and speaks to a larger problem in the country. The young generation typically gets infatuated by extremism, and I really think we need to take a step back.”

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