Thursday, January 28, 2016

A Republican debate without Donald Trump does little to clarify the order of things

True to his word, Donald Trump didn't show. And Thursday night's Republican presidential debate was less entertaining because he didn't.

But none of the seven candidates who did take the prime-time stage in Iowa took advantage of the opportunity to knock the real estate mogul off his front-runner's stride.

Iowa's caucuses – the first contest of the election year – are three days away. The top two contenders there, according to polling averages, are Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida showing potential for a late surge.

Some thoughts on where things now stand ...

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Scenes from a John Kasich town hall

GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – Ohio Gov. John Kasich celebrated his 75th New Hampshire town hall here Sunday at an Independent Order of the Odd Fellows Lodge.

What an appropriately named venue.

All due respect to the wonderful people of the Granite State. I've enjoyed their hospitality time and again as I cover Kasich's bid for the Republican presidential nomination. They take seriously the responsibility they have as hosts of the nation's first primary.

But the town hall – a staple of the up-close-and-personal campaigning that voters demand – brings together such a fascinating hodgepodge. They gather in VFW halls, school cafeterias and, of course, Odd Fellows lodges. They are Republicans and Democrats. Undecided and unshakably committed to Kasich. Young and old. Quiet and loud. (About the only thing lacking is racial diversity; New Hampshire is 94 percent white.)

More: The 9 voters you meet at a John Kasich town hall

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Monday, January 25, 2016

The surprise emergence of a 'Zen-like' John Kasich

NASHUA, N.H. – John Kasich's identity crisis is over.

For months the Ohio governor struggled to find his footing in the Republican presidential race. He had regressed from a candidate trying too hard to be the adult in the room to the antsy, prickly pol that observers of his career had been expecting all along.

Then came last week – the best week of Kasich's campaign to date.

New polls here in the nation's first primary state show him with a legitimate shot of finishing second. He collected endorsements from several local newspapers and from an influential former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

A narrative, encouraged by Kasich and his team, emerged. The governor judged his rivals as "princes of darkness" and offered himself as a "prince of light and hope." It's a more colorful variation on his adult-in-the-room strategy.

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Q&A with John Kasich: A new tone, a new jacket and old friends from his days in Congress

NASHUA, N.H. – Ohio Gov. John Kasich's giant blue campaign bus has been racking up the miles here in the nation's first presidential primary state. The Republican has held more than 75 town hall-style forums and made dozens more retail politicking stops.

The work, combined with a strong organization on the ground, has him eyeing a big finish Feb. 9.

The polls provide reason for optimism, and Kasich was full of it last week.

I spent a leg on Kasich's tour Saturday between his appearance at a multi-candidate summit Saturday here in Nashua and a town hall in Milford. Kasich avoided criticizing his GOP rivals. He wouldn't take the bait when asked about his GOP rivals, explained why he's essentially skipping the Iowa caucuses and explained why he's feeling so Zen.

The following Q&A has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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Friday, January 22, 2016

Kasich super PAC makes a play for black voters as it builds out a South Carolina strategy

Nearly all of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's presidential eggs are in the New Hampshire basket. But keep an eye on South Carolina's 6th Congressional District.

The region, overwhelmingly Democratic and composed mostly of black voters, is a key target for New Day for America, the pro-Kasich super political action committee.

Here's why ...

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kasich savors surge but expects rivals to pounce: 'I'm probably going to get pounded now'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich sees a polling bounce in New Hampshire as validation of his strategy in the critical first presidential primary.

After months of up-close-and-personal campaigning and a television ad blitz largely bankrolled by Kasich's allies at a free-spending political action committee, two new surveys show the Republican tied for second, trailing only Donald Trump.

"This is what I always thought was going to happen," Kasich said late Monday by telephone from California, where he had fundraisers scheduled. "I always thought we would emerge. We have the best ground game in the state."

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Monday, January 11, 2016

John Kasich flip-flopped on guns. So why are his allies blasting Chris Christie for doing the same?

Allies of Ohio Gov. John Kasich's presidential campaign are attacking rival candidate Chris Christie for flip-flopping on gun control.

A web ad from the New Day for America super political action committee hits the New Jersey governor for his past support of regulations, including an assault weapons ban.

The spot is geared toward voters in New Hampshire, which holds the critical first primary. Christie, the ad contends, is wrong on guns and, thus, wrong for the state. But the super PAC in one respect is blasting Christie for doing something Kasich has done.

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Rob Portman endorses John Kasich for president

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman endorsed Gov. John Kasich for president Saturday, calling him a "leader who has a proven record of delivering results."

Portman will serve as a national co-chair of Kasich's campaign.

News of the endorsement trickled out late Friday night, when sources close to Kasich and Portman confirmed to cleveland.com that an announcement was imminent.

On the surface, such a development might not seem surprising. Top Ohio Republican backs another top Ohio Republican. That's how it always works, no?

In most cases you would be correct. But Portman's case is somewhat special.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why the Ohio Republican Party's early endorsement of John Kasich won't be a surprise

Word that the Ohio Republican Party will meet Friday to endorse Gov. John Kasich's presidential bid created a stir among GOP insiders.

The move, more than two months before a potentially crowded primary in an important general election state, strikes many as unusual. Quite possibly unprecedented.

But if you're at all surprised, it's time for a refresher on the tight grip Kasich holds over the state party and its governing body, a 66-member central committee.

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