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With Poor Peformance In Iowa, Kasich Hitches Hopes To New Hampshire

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Kasich has been polling among the top candidates in New Hampshire.

As many experts expected, Ohio Governor John Kasich did relatively poorly in this week’s Iowa caucuses. The Republican presidential candidate finished tied for seventh place. But he’s polling much better in New Hampshire, which hosts the first traditional primary next week.

WOSU’s Mandie Trimble spoke with OSU history professor and political observer David Stebenne about whether Kasich’s chance in New Hampshire took a hit with Marco Rubio’s strong finish in Iowa.

The below transcript is an automated transcript of the above conversation. Please excuse minor typos and errors.

Mandie Trimble: Now Real Clear Politics has Kasich basically tied for second in New Hampshire with Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio when you consider the margin of error. Kasich has been there for weeks staking much of his campaign on that state. On paper his chances of coming in third or even second look pretty good, but Senator Marco Rubio had a very strong third place finish in Iowa last night does that good showing give him the momentum he needs to upset Kasich's chances in New Hampshire. 

David Stebenne: A big maybe. The New Hampshire Republican primary is special in that it tends to attract more moderately conservative voters.

One of the wild cards in New Hampshire is what fraction of all independent voters will actually vote Republican as opposed to Democratic. In New Hampshire independents can vote in either party's primary and they can decide right on the day which way they want to go.

The more of those folks who participate in the Republican primary the better Governor Kasich's odds are. Because in the polls in New Hampshire he is the preferred choice of independents, which makes sense in a way because he's pitched his campaign very much down the middle, very much an Ohio politician. But because the Democrats also have a very active presidential primary contest a fair number of independents might be attracted to voting on the Democratic side.

The more of them go that way the harder it is for Governor Kasich and I do think he needs to be in that top three to be viable for fund raising and everything else going forward. If Marco Rubio surges and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, it's the same trio as in Iowa then it's probably all over for Governor Kasich.

MT: Kasich's campaign knew he wouldn't show well in Iowa. They didn't spend any money there instead they opted to get a head start if you will in New Hampshire. What if anything did he gain or lose in Iowa?

DS: Well, typically the winner in Iowa is not the Republican nominee. Most of the time it's someone else and if you think that other candidates are likely to do much better in Iowa than you are. Then investing a lot of time and energy in Iowa doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

New Hampshire is a better predictor of who gets to be the Republican nominee historically then Iowa. There's a very logical thing, if you don't have endless money to spend and endless time, he's a sitting governor of a major state he has work to do, his strategy makes sense.

The problem is the number of competitors, active competitors that he has. If Marco Rubio had also underperformed in Iowa, and it had been mostly a story of Trump versus Cruz that would have been better for Governor Kasich, so we'll see.

And by the way if you're a fan of Governor Kasich don't despair. Even if you ultimately is not a viable presidential nominee, he's very much a viable vice presidential running mate. That's part of the reason I think that he is sticking with this.

MT: That's a very interesting point that you make. Can Kasich finish in the top two, three New Hampshire to have a real shot at this or do you think his real chances are potentially in a vice presidential role?

DS: Well I think there's a greater chance that he would be picked as the running mate.

He's still very viable in New Hampshire and we'll just see what happens. New Hampshire Republican electorate is sometimes hard to predict because the lot of them are late deciders. Governor Kasich benefits from having some strong supporters in the state. He's been endorsed by some newspapers up there, and he just resonates better. Right, with New Hampshire Republican voters who like his experience who like his sort of middle of the road approach to the problems which fits.

Historically New Hampshire was kind of a moderately liberal Republican state. It's the state that preferred Dwight Eisenhower to Robert Taft, that kind of thing. So that's the Kasich idea. And if he gets into that top three then he's on to South Carolina and he'll keep trying.

What's interesting to me about Governor Kasich is that he is still very much in the running as of this morning, and it's been a long time since I saw the governor of Ohio has been in that position.

MT: Well it will be very interesting to see what happens a week from today. David Stebenne, thanks for the discussion.

DS: A pleasure to be here.