Kasich in NH With Eye on Future 08/30 06:22
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich is campaigning again in New
The former presidential candidate and chief Donald Trump critic is the first
of 2016's failed GOP hopefuls to return to the state since the February primary.
Kasich is in New Hampshire this time on behalf of Republican gubernatorial
candidate Chris Sununu. But on a two-day trip through the state, he also is
unabashedly visiting for himself.
"I intend to keep speaking, and you all in New Hampshire gave me the chance
to do it," Kasich declared to supporters at a Sunday gathering laced with
nostalgia that at times felt like a campaign stump. "I don't want to blow it."
Kasich credits New Hampshire, home of the first primary, with keeping his
presidential hopes alive after he took second in February's contest. His trip,
which ended Monday, marked his first return since.
Kasich is ribbing reporters for speculating about a 2020 candidacy --- but
he's hinting at interest.
"You know anything's possible," he told The Associated Press on Sunday. "But
if I said too much my wife not might let me move back in when I get home from
Since exiting the race in May, Kasich has refused to back Trump, saying the
Republican nominee is too divisive. But he's on a cross-country tour
campaigning with down-ballot Republicans. He's stumped with Sens. Mark Kirk of
Illinois, Rob Portman of Ohio and one-time primary rival Rand Paul of Kentucky.
His calendar includes events in Nevada, Georgia, Arizona, Florida and
These trips offer Kasich an opportunity to stay visible on a national scale
even as he effectively sits out the presidential election. Kasich said the
Republican party is stuck in the 1980s and needs a "whole new agenda" --- one
that he'd like a hand in building. He envisions a party focused more on
treating drug addiction and mental illness, student debt and the high costs of
prescription drugs, ideas that sound more out of a Hillary Clinton speech than
one from Trump.
"If you're singing a song that was written 30 years ago, unless you're Frank
Sinatra, people lose interest," Kasich said of the party's agenda.
But Kasich's visit to New Hampshire notably packs more weight than his other
campaign stops. Sununu is the only non-incumbent whom Kasich is endorsing in a
contested primary, and though Sununu is part of a well-known New Hampshire
political family, he does not have a lock on winning the Sept. 13 primary --- a
four-way contest. Sununu's brother, former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, was one of
Kasich's strongest backers in the primary. The two-day stop didn't include
events with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is choreographing a difficult dance around
Trump in her highly competitive re-election bid.
The list of attendees at Kasich's Sunday gathering, billed as a thank you to
his supporters, included long-time backers and a who's who of New Hampshire
Republicans. He's not hiding his joy at being back in front of a state that has
treated him well before, and may again.
"Do you understand how much I love you all?" he asked. "I don't think you
Jim Merrill, a Republican operative who ran Mitt Romney's New Hampshire
campaigns, said Kasich's return is outside the norm. Past White House hopefuls
have returned to New Hampshire during the general election before, but
typically to campaign with the winning nominee.
"It's certainly uncommon for a candidate who ran during this cycle to come
back to New Hampshire to rally his former supporters rather than come up and
support the ticket," Merrill said.
Still, Kasich and other Republicans must navigate the waters of 2016 before
2020 is in play.
Although he made himself one of Trump's most high-profile critics, Kasich
becomes visibly annoyed when asked to comment on several of the businessman's
recent remarks, including his shifting stance on immigration. Kasich was one of
the GOP candidates to embrace a path to legalization for people living in the
country illegally. It's a position that hurt him in the primary but might have
helped him appeal to more moderate general election voters.
Trump now finds himself wrestling with the same issue, and gave a series of
mixed signals last week on whether he still supports using a deportation force
to remove people who are in the United States illegally. He is set to deliver a
speech on Wednesday clarifying his stance.
"Everything that I mean to say, I've said with my actions louder than my
words," Kasich said. "I really don't have anything more to add about Donald
Kasich declares he will not vote for Clinton either. But he's offering no
clarity for voters who face the same dilemma. Asked if he'd definitely vote for
a candidate for president in November, Kasich simply said: "We'll see."