Ohio Gov. John Kasich said he “loves being underestimated” as he moves out of New Hampshire with a second-place finish but challenges with funding and campaign infrastructure.
In a statement last night that noted Kasich showed an “inclusive conservative message” can win, the campaign hinted at his strategy moving forward: The governor is going to aggressively campaign in South Carolina starting today with the intent of winning early delegates before expecting to take Michigan on March 8. The campaign then expects him to close the deal for the nomination on his home turf of the Midwest, barreling toward the GOP convention in his home state.
Kasich had previously said his campaign would be kaput if he didn’t perform well in the first-in-the-nation primary.
“Governor Kasich is now the leading governor in the race and the only one with a realistic chance at the nomination,” said senior campaign strategist John Weaver, who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2000 and 2008 campaigns. “He showed that a conservative with a positive message will succeed and, in fact, that’s the only way for Republicans to win the White House. As the governor of Ohio he knows how to do it.”
Kasich’s endorsements include Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Ohio Gov. George Voinovich, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, dozens of Ohio state lawmakers, Charles Barkley and Montel Williams, who tweeted last night that Kasich is the “only adult in the GOP field.”
Kasich told CBS this morning that while he pans negative campaigning “if somebody pounds me, I’m not going to taking a pounding — I’m not some sort of a pin cushion or a marshmallow.”
“But look, I think people are tired of the negativity. I think the ability to talk about what you want to do — you know, the reason that a lot of people go negative is because their positive doesn’t work. So, imagine if you were running for positive office and you didn’t have much positive so all you spent your time doing was talking negative. I mean, that’s sort of a downer, I think it is and — but look, I think people want to know we can solve problems,” he said.
“I’ve been a reformer all of my lifetime. And my message is real simple: Whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, at the beginning and at the end, you should be an American working together to solve problems. And that message, I think, works. If it doesn’t, I can’t change my message. It’s just the way it goes.”
Kasich noted that Jeb Bush spent some $50 million in New Hampshire — a chunk of that on attack ads — and gleaned a fourth-place finish. “The Bush campaign can’t figure out what it is for and the candidate can’t seem to know what he’s for, so they spend all their time bashing somebody else,” he said.
He promised a first hundred days plan in office with “so many ideas and so many things I want to change… if you don’t have a seat belt on your chair, go and get one because you’re not going to see anything like this.”
On MSNBC, Bush dismissed Kasich’s South Carolina effort: “He has nothing going on down here, best we can tell.”
“He had a one-state strategy, and it was effective,” Bush said. “But he’s not as conservative as me, and his record is not nearly as good as mine.”
Politico reported late last night on a Bush campaign memo detailing the vicious attacks they plan to unleash on Kasich and Rubio in South Carolina.
Kasich told ABC that his grassroots organization is helping effectively spread his message: “We make sure we leave no one behind — the mentally ill, the drug addicted, working poor, everybody has a right to rise in America and to restore the spirit of this country.”
“It’s a long race, right? We’re here in South Carolina. We’ll be here. We’ll go through South Carolina, ultimately to the Midwest, and you know what it’s like in Illinois and in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania,” the governor said.
“And in the south… Mississippi, you know Trent Lott, the guy doesn’t lose many. We are very strong there. Got the governor of Alabama; we’re building a team in Tennessee,” he added. “This is a long, long race, and you know, everybody always understatements me, but it seems to always kind of work out. So, we’re just going to put one foot in front of the other.”
“I absolutely do believe that I cannot only unify the party, but I also believe I can bring back that Reagan blue-collar Democrat.”