Ohio Governor John Kasich continued his New Hampshire focus with a recent three day visit, trying to push his way into the top tier of candidates. His visit featured four town halls, including a Manchester town hall Friday which I attended.
New Hampshire polls continue to have Kasich mid-pack with Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio ahead of him, although Carson appears to be fading. Kasich has, like all of the non-Trump candidates, struggled for attention. He has far more electoral office experience than any of the other “major” Republican candidates, with substantial state and federal experience, but that has not resonated with voters yet in this season of anti-government fervor. (He has more time in elective office than Trump, Carson, Cruz and Rubio combined.)
Speaking at an American Legion post in Manchester, Kasich had an attentive audience of about 50-60 people. Some declared their support for Kasich, but they appeared to predominantly be there to consider him. They asked serious questions, with several of the eleven questions posed predicated on ideas that Kasich either does not accept or does not embrace in the manner presented. Among them: whether he supports the concept of eliminating all nuclear weapons, encouraging development of solar power, what he would do to alleviate conditions of Palestinians living in the “apartheid state” of Israel and continuation of the Export/Import Bank. Kasich engaged in civil discussion with his questioners, perhaps gaining a few supporters, but still looking for a campaign spark.
Unlike early Kasich town halls I attended, the candidate did not spend time discussing his background and bio. Former U.S. Senator Gordon Humphrey, who along with former U.S. Senator John E. Sununu tops Kasich’s list of New Hampshire supporters, introduced Kasich but it differed from the personal stories Kasich told in prior town halls. Kasich launched immediately into an opening statement on ISIS, spending more than 10 minutes on the topic before taking questions. He worked in some of his background, noting his years on the House Armed Services Committee, and in a veiled critique of his rivals referred to foreign policy advisors saying “they don’t teach me … they advise me.” He used a bit of humor, and seemed to connect with his audience. As he took off a fleece jacket an audience member stood, helped him take it off and held it for him, with Kasich quipping to laughs “you’re not gonna through those pockets, are ya?”
Kasich spoke about his electoral challenges, lamenting that he’s “not well-known” and saying that his campaign depends on a strong showing in New Hampshire. In his telling, if “we do well here in New Hampshire, I will be president”, but without a strong New Hampshire result he’ll be headed back to Ohio to “work on my golf game”.
Kasich wrapped up after about 50 minutes, posing for pictures and then speaking with the press. He headed out, shaking a few more hands as he headed to his enormous campaign bus, its bright colors standing out in the gray afternoon.
Here’s his full town hall:
Press Q&A: Kasich’s post-town hall press Q&A is here.