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Editor’s note: This story originally ran on Feb. 3.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who hasn’t lost an election since his bid to lead Ohio State University student government in 1973, is closing in on the biggest bet of his political life as he tries to win over Republican presidential primary voters in New Hampshire.
On Monday — the day he finished eighth in Iowa’s Republican caucus — Kasich kicked off an eight-day stretch of campaigning in New Hampshire, which hosts its primary on Feb. 9.
In-depth coverage: Washington Bureau reporter Jessica Wehrman reports from Iowa
Election Day: 5 things we were watching for in Iowa. How did we do?
Kasich and New Day for America, the super PAC backing him, are banking on a dicey strategy to skip Iowa and invest heavily in New Hampshire in the hopes that a solid finish will catapult him into the limelight and bring in campaign cash. It’s a strategy that has worked for some in the past and been fatal for others, such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani who placed sixth in Iowa and then came in fourth in New Hampshire after being the national front-runner.
“We will know on the morning of the 10th (of February) whether we are a story and it’s really going to be whether you’re saying ‘Oh, my goodness, this guy Kasich, we sort of counted him out.’ …And all of sudden you folks (in the media) will be forced to shift a little bit of your attention away from the Trumper. You might have to talk about John Kasich,” Kasich told CNN. Watch Kasich here on CNN.
Bypassing Iowa, and performing poorly in Monday’s caucuses, could hurt Kasich’s momentum in New Hampshire because voters will likely consider the Iowa results in deciding who to support, said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Cedarville University Center for Political Studies.
“There is a very real bandwagon effect when it comes to presidential primaries,” Smith said. “People like to be associated with the winning candidate, the successful candidate.”
Selling the candidate
Kasich, 63, entered the race in July, qualified for all seven GOP debates, earned the endorsements of the Boston Globe, New York Times and several New Hampshire newspapers, and held nearly 100 town hall meetings in New Hampshire and raised $7.6 million, outside the millions raised by New Day For America. Kasich’s narrative is that he is an experienced executive who knows how to manage government, balance budgets, fix problems, cut taxes and help those in need. He tells voters on the trail that there is the establishment lane, the outsider lane and the Kasich lane.
The race in New Hampshire is still unsettled since six out of 1o Republicans there said they have not made up their minds, according to a recent CNN/WMUR poll.
New Hampshire’s primary process, in which voters cast ordinary ballots, offers the candidates a more straightforward sprint toward victory than Iowa. But undeclared voters, who make up the largest bloc in New Hampshire, can vote in either party’s primary, infusing the race with an added level of uncertainty.
Several polls show Kasich in second place behind reality TV star Donald Trump, who finished second in Iowa behind U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. But Kasich’s grasp on second place could be in jeopardy if U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s strong third-place showing in Iowa gives him momentum and campaign money in New Hampshire, said University of Dayton political scientist Dan Birdsong.
“If, and admittedly this is a big if, Rubio can ride the momentum from Iowa into New Hampshire, he could put a dent in Trump’s support but he will likely take some support away from candidates like Kasich and (New Jersey Gov. Chris) Christie,” Birdsong said.
He added: “The only thing that should pull Rubio down is his lack of experience. Republicans are so upset with the ‘novice’ in the White House, are they really willingly to put another one in? This has been the puzzle for me. Rubio’s speech from Monday night was almost a carbon copy for the 2008 Barack Obama Iowa speech. Partisanship can be blinding.
“If Kasich wants to break Rubio’s momentum he must make the next week and the rest of the campaign about experience vs. inexperience. Although a Rubio-Kasich or Kasich-Rubio ticket could make for an interesting General Election.”
The Trump alternative
Smith said Rubio’s third-place finish in Iowa “probably made it difficult for Jeb Bush to do anything.”
Smith said if Rubio wins or places second in New Hampshire that could make him “the clear Trump alternative,” which wouldn’t bode well for Kaisch.
Kasich is getting some help from the home team, with as many as 200 people already campaigning for him, a number which could double next week, said Matt Borges, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party.
“We will knock on doors, make phone calls and talk to voters, help him organize rallies and town halls and various things that he’s doing to help win voters over and help him get his message out there,” Borges said.
Borges, and spokeswoman Brittany Warner, and state Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, are headed to New Hampshire this week and former Centerville Mayor Mark Kingseed is already there. State Rep. Jeff Rezabek, R-Clayton, just returned from campaigning for the governor.
“The folks here are so tuned in and involved in the primary,” said Kingseed. “I think they take their duty very seriously here knowing that they have a huge influence on who the president is going to be.”
Antani, a Kasich delegate, said it is exciting to have an Ohioan in the presidential race and he’s looking forward to talking to voters in New Hampshire.
“Getting out the vote is crucial. This is probably going to be the important weekend of the campaign because if he can get a solid second place it will vault him into the other primary states and therefore give him the national exposure he needs in order to win,” Antani said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.