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Still banking on a New Hampshire win, John Kasich logs 45th town hall in the state

Last modified: 12/22/2015 7:14:09 PM
Like many other Republican presidential candidates, Ohio Gov. John Kasich is still banking on New Hampshire for his shot at the nomination.

In a still-crowded Republican field, the Ohio governor struggles to break through in New Hampshire and nationally. Kasich currently polls at 7.7 percent in New Hampshire and 2.3 percent nationally, according to the most recent data from Real Clear Politics.

“New Hampshire’s critical,” Kasich said at a Monday night town hall at Concord’s McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. “If I become a story out of here, I really think I’ll be president.”

Though the GOP field is winnowing slowly, it is still 13 candidates strong and feeling the influence of brash frontrunner Donald Trump. Trump is currently enjoying vast support nationwide and in New Hampshire, and Kasich is one of the more moderate candidates trying to position themselves as alternatives.

But don’t expect Kasich to adopt Trump-like tactics anytime soon.

“We’ve got so many people in this field, and I’m not bombastic,” he said. Kasich said he couldn’t say a bunch of inflammatory stuff on the campaign trail because he’s already an elected official with a responsibility to Ohio residents.

“I have to be a good leader,” he said.

The last question at Kasich’s Monday night town hall concerned the sanctity of New Hampshire’s primary.

With Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and other politicians questioning whether the Granite State should still have first-in-the-nation voting status, one resident wanted to know if he would step up and protect it.

The candidate paused.

“It depends how it goes,” he joked to the crowd of about 50 people, standing in front of an old military fighter jet at the Discovery Center.

The town hall at the Discovery Center was Kasich’s 45th such event, and he will back in the state after the holidays, promising a celebratory cake at a 50th town hall.

“I’ve met 1.2 million people twice already, and I have to meet them three times more,” he joked.

Kasich repeated familiar themes at the Discovery Center. Rather than opening with foreign policy and national security, the governor focused much of his 20-minute stump speech on familiar territory: the economy and balanced budgets.

He touted recent job numbers showing 385,000 private sector jobs created in Ohio, and said if elected president, he would work with Democrats to trim the national debt.

“Don’t you think the time has come for someone to show you rather than tell you?” Kasich asked the audience. “The reason I’m doing this, I think I can get this done. We don’t want to leave anybody behind, anybody.”

On foreign policy, Kasich promised strength and taking the fight to Middle Eastern terror group ISIS.

“There is no substitute for a strong U.S. military,” he said. “You take the resources and apply them to the threat.”

He also repeated a call to temporarily halt the flow of Syrian refugees coming into the United States after the recent terror attacks in Paris.

“We need to work with our European friends to know who these foreign fighters are,” he said.

Kasich was joined in his latest New Hampshire visit by his wife, Karen Kasich, and his twin daughters Emma and Reese.

“He is passionate and compassionate,” Karen told the audience. “I really believe he is the best man to lead.”

Bristol voter Fred Moch left the town hall impressed by Kasich – but not entirely convinced.

Moch said this event was his first live one of the 2016 primary season, and said he was especially impressed with the questions posed by the voters in the audience.

“I thought there would be a lot more people,” Moch said.

But Moch is leaning to another moderate Republican candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who he said he believes is more forceful than Kasich.

“I think he’s honest, he’s not superficial, he’s laying it on the line,” Moch said of Christie.

He added he is still looking at the whole field and won’t rule Kasich out.

“I think he’s doing okay now,” Moch said.

(Ella Nilsen can be reached at 369-3322, enilsen@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @ella_nilsen)


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