John Kasich’s second-place finish in Tuesday’s Republican primary was perhaps the biggest surprise in a night that seemed full of foregone conclusions.
While the Ohio governor took just 16 percent of the vote, his campaign is “the story coming out of New Hampshire," said his state chair John E. Sununu. “Nobody thought he could finish in the top tier let alone break through and beat Jeb Bush and Chris Christie and Marco Rubio and beat Ted Cruz."
Unlike Rubio and Cruz, who spent more time on the trail in Iowa, Kasich bet all his chips on the Granite State, telling voters at more than 100 town halls that carrying on to South Carolina and beyond depended on New Hampshire.
Tom Rath, a top advisor to the campaign and local GOP heavyweight, said second place is just what Kasich needed to build support for the upcoming contests.
“I am convinced we will get resources off of this [that] we will need to compete,” he said. “Every step builds on the one before it. We’re there.”
Rath says the fact that Kasich didn’t sling mud as much as his rivals, practiced good, old- fashioned retail politics and still came in second “is a good sign for democracy.”
Kasich’s speech at the Grappone Center in Concord Tuesday night wasn’t much different from his usual stump speech, which was considerably less ramped up than some of his rivals.
“The people of NH have taught me a lesson,” he told supporters. “And from this day forward I am going to go slower and spend my time listening and healing and helping and bringing people together to fix our great country.”
And it seems those qualities aer attractive to Kasich’s supporters. Late in the evening, as he headed home, Mike Fimbel of Mont Vernon looked satisfied.
“He’s got so much experience, and he talks so much common sense and trying to draw people together," he said. "This is a big step - New Hampshire’s a big step.”
Kasich was already taking the next step: his campaign was scheduled to fly to South Carolina before all of New Hampshire’s ballots were counted.