Election 2020

John Kasich Surges in New Hampshire

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

John who? Ohio Governor John Kasich may just have a shot at becoming the establishment challenger to media mogul Donald J. Trump. A new American Research Group (ARG) poll released Thursday has Kasich in a strong second place to The Donald, and the Ohio governor holds that position in the RealClearPolitics average of recent New Hampshire polls.

While Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz have risen in national polls and appeal to two separate “wings” of the Republican Party, many have waited for a third alternative to present him(or her)self. As late as December, the more moderate “establishment” wing seemed fractured and defeated in the early voting state of New Hampshire. Recent polls suggest Kasich may be uniting these voters.

The Ohio governor took 20 percent in the ARG poll, close behind Trump’s 27 percent. Florida Senator Marco Rubio followed, with 10 percent. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who along with Rubio are widely considered Kasich’s main competition, stood at 9 and 8 percent, respectively.

The RealClearPolitics average has Trump with a much more considerable lead at 32 percent, but Kasich has also taken second place there, albeit only with 12.3 percent. Cruz comes in third with 11.5 percent.

Another poll, also released Thursday, found that a full one-third of the state’s undeclared voters have yet to make up their mind as to whether they will vote in the Republican or Democratic primary. New Hampshire has an open primary, allowing independents to vote in either primary. A full 44 percent of New Hampshire voters have not declared allegiance to the Democrats or the GOP, and so can vote in either party on February 9. Less than three weeks out, they are still undecided.

Some undeclared voters who lean Democratic, like East Hampstead resident Charles Sielicki, may vote for Kasich in the GOP primary. Sielicki says he would vote for Kasich in part just to defeat Trump.

Kasich made a name for himself as a conservative reformer, leading the fight for a balanced budget in the 1990s U.S. House of Representatives. As the Washington Examiner’s W. James Antle II put it, “Kasich had been Tea Party before there was a Tea Party,” but lately he has taken to defending President Obama and expanding Medicaid in the state of Ohio. In the most recent debate, however, Kasich pivoted back to his fiscal conservatism, and that may have helped boost him this month.