With Political World Focused on Iowa, Kasich Has N.H. Campaign Trail to Himself

Feb 1, 2016

Kasich addresses voters at the Portsmouth Country Club in Greenland, NH
Credit Emily Corwin / NHPR

  For the past three days, the presidential candidates have been busy getting out the vote in Iowa. That is: everyone except John Kasich.  The Republican Ohio governor has been in New Hampshire since Friday, where, for once, he had the campaign trail to himself. 

The schedule makes sense. After all, Kasich putting all his eggs in the New Hampshire basket. His polling here is good – he’s among the top three. In Iowa, he’s toward the bottom of the pack.  That might be why his swanky blue tour bus was the only campaign vehicle on New Hampshire roads this weekend.

Still, one town hall attendee told Kasich in Rochester, she’s worried:

"I watch you on television and you get very little coverage, and I’m very frustrated because I feel like if the American people could hear your message," the woman said.

Kasich's response: "If I do well in New Hampshire, everyone’s going to know who I am. All the media’s gonna say. 'Oh, wow, wow, wow.' "

At his events, Kasich sets himself apart as a “positive” candidate. Here's how he talks about his SuperPAC:

"I woke up this morning and I heard they were going to put a negative commercial on television. I was… I was outraged."

Even though SuperPACs and campaigns can’t communicate directly, Kasich says, his team found a way to make sure the attack ad was never broadcast.

They ran a positive ad, instead.

Most people at Kasich events also say they have a general aversion to political theatrics. And many like his middle ground politics – like Portsmouth resident and recent retiree Karen Andersen.

"I just see extremes," Anderson said. "And both extremes scare me. I don’t see a lot of complex thinking."

She calls Kasich a “moderate” and says he’s the only one she sees in either party.

But during a primary season dominated by a riled up electorate, walking that middle ground can be a bit of a tightrope walk.  On the Seacoast Monday, Kasich tried to reason with voters from both ends of the spectrum.

At the Portsmouth Country Club, one questioner  asked why Kasich wouldn’t support a single-payer healthcare system, such as Democraic candidate Bernie Sanders supports.

Just two hours earlier in Rochester, another audience member was asking Kasich if he was a “liberal spender.”

In these moments, Kasich often plays it cool, responding to one tough question with a bit of song. But he quickly turned to a broader defense of his record.  

Still, Kasich seems to enjoy himself on the campaign trail. And, at least through yesterday, he was loving the attention. With every other candidate in Iowa Monday morning, Kasich had the media to himself. 17 reporters in Rochester; 35 in Greenland.

All that will change, of course, starting Tuesday morning.