Seeking pre-debate boost, Kasich zeroes in on New Hampshire

AP News
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Posted: Jul 31, 2015 5:08 PM
Seeking pre-debate boost, Kasich zeroes in on New Hampshire

KEENE, N.H. (AP) — Days before Fox News announces who will participate in the first GOP primary debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is projecting a laid-back attitude toward his chances of being on stage and saying he's pleased with the support he's received since joining the race July 21.

"I'm pretty cool and calm right now," Kasich told reporters Friday after a town hall meeting. I'm having fun."

Only 10 of the 17 declared GOP candidates will participate in Thursday's debate, the lineup determined by an average of five recent national polls. Most polls show Kasich, a two-term governor and former congressman, right on the cusp.

Kasich's campaign — and the super PAC backing him — have been making an aggressive play to boost his name recognition and base of support in the weeks leading up to the debate. Kasich has spent four out of the 11 days he's been a candidate in New Hampshire, hosting six public town halls and meeting business owners and elected officials. He's also made campaign stops in South Carolina, Iowa, Michigan and Boston since joining the race.

The super PAC supporting him, meanwhile, is dropping significant cash on television and digital advertising in New Hampshire. New Day for America has aired two 60-second ads on New Hampshire and Boston airwaves and plans to release a third next week, bringing the PAC's total TV spending to $4 million, officials said.

The group is also targeting likely primary voters and potential donors through digital ads.

"Our ads, combined with a very successful campaign launch and announcement tour, are resonating with voters and building momentum and support for Gov. Kasich," said Connie Wehrkamp, New Day for America's press secretary. "We will continue to execute an aggressive ad strategy in New Hampshire."

The PAC has not aired television ads in any other states, and Kasich's campaign has not launched any of its own ads.

Kasich's campaign has four paid staff members in New Hampshire who are working on grassroots organizing. Simon Thomson, the newly named campaign manager here, said the campaign will release a list of endorsements soon.

"He's got to press the flesh to do that, and he's ready to," Thomson said.

Kasich will be back in New Hampshire on Monday night for a GOP candidate forum hosted by the New Hampshire Union Leader. Candidates will be questioned one at a time by a local radio personality and the forum will air nationally on C-SPAN as well as a New Hampshire news station. For candidates on the cusp of qualifying for Fox's debate, it will offer a final opportunity to boost name ID before Fox chooses which polls to average.

Former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, who is likely to chair Kasich's New Hampshire efforts, says he fully expects Kasich to be on the debate stage. He pointed to Kasich's quick rise in New Hampshire and national polls following his announcement as evidence that Kasich is generating buzz.

"It doesn't surprise me in the least that people take a very hard look at him and as a result we build a lot of support very quickly," Sununu said.

Kasich knows a presidential campaign is no cake walk — he reminded voters in Keene of his short-lived White House bid in 1999. Making light of his effort, he recalled talking to a New Hampshire voter for 20 minutes at an event before she looked at her watch and said, "Now what time do you think the candidate's going to get here?"

Now, Kasich said, there's still plenty of time for his base of support to grow.

"I think we're fine," he told reporters. "The challenge for me is, you know, I'm the governor of Ohio. I didn't go around the country trying to make a name for myself so I don't have the big national name ID, but it seems like every day we're doing a little bit better and people are signing on."