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Government & Politics

Kasich as the Un-Trump: How's That Been Selling in New Hampshire?

Kasich at a rally before the first GOP debate in Cleveland

John Kasich’s bet on New Hampshire to boost his presidential hopes appears to have been a good one. With less than two weeks before the first-in-the-nation primary, he’s polling second among the GOP contenders. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with New Hampshire Public Radio’s Jason Moon – whose been covering Kasich since last summer – about how the Ohio governor is playing in the Granite State.

Jason Moon says Donald Trump has challenged conventional wisdom in New Hampshire just as he has in much of the rest of the nation. In a state that values retail politics – intimate town halls and face to face contact – he’s gone for mega events and national attention. 

But not so with the three governors who want to be president: John Kasich, Chris Christie and Jeb Bush.
"Particularly Kasich. He's really gone in for New Hampshire. One example of that was just yesterday, this unusual situation where most of the candidates were campaigning in Iowa, and Kasich had New Hampshire all to himself."

WKSU will carry live election coverage from New Hampshire Public Radio on the night of the primary, Feb. 9th.

Starting with the bio
The last time Kasich ran for president was 1999, and he spent last summer focusedon biography, introducing himself to voters. But Moon said his message overall haven't changed much.

"I guess it's tilted a little bit to respond to the kind of Trump phenomenon out there. But really he's been kind of championing the almost old-fashioned idea now of kind of compassionate conservatism. He has a very positive message compared to other candidates on the stump and he's a relative moderate compared to some of these folks."

And he says that appears to be paying off in the polls and with newspaper endorsements, including ones from the Boston Globe and Concord Monitor this week.

Times change
Moon  acknowledged Kasich is regarded as a bit prickly back home, but not necessarily compared to some of the other GOP candidates in New Hampshire

"When it comes to personality, people either I think tend to think of him as kind of affecting this sort of regular-guy attitude, which I think most of the people who are going to his town halls, it's effective with. A couple folks I talked to kind of saw him as a king of light weight ... that he doesn't have the fire in his belly to take on some of these big challenges."

Moon spoke with voters at a town hall last night and saw -- again -- a main theme.

"They're all looking for a Trump-alternative. They're looking to coalesce around the more moderate, in some sense traditional candidate. ... They all really don't want Donald Trump to be the nominee.

"The only problem is, there are some other candidates who fit that bill pretty nicely, too, and are quite similarly to Kasich, namely Chris Christie and Jeb Bush."

The bromance is really over
Christie and Kasich at one point were big boosters of each other. And they still don't attack each other while they're campaigning. Moon says they leave that to their Super PACS.

"New Hampshire voters look in their mailbox the past week or so and there's been a flood of negative attacks on Christie, Kasich and Bush from Christie, Kasich and Bush Super PACS. And so it's a way for them to kind of kneecap each other to try to fight over this relatively small chunk where they think their voters are. But meanwhile, Donald Trump is running with a 20-point lead over any of them."

"And it's also very fleeting, these attacks, based on who's rising in the polls on a daily basis."

Moon gone back and looked at videos of John Kasich’s brief run for president in the 1990s and says he’s struck by how little Kasich has changed, but how much the political context around him has changed.