The first hint that Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) might be in a competitive position in New Hampshire came just a few days after he kicked off his presidential campaign. An NBC/Marist poll showed the Republican governor in fourth place, trailing only Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Donald Trump.
It wasn’t an aberration. Soon after, a Monmouth poll showed Kasich tied for third place. This week, two statewide polls show the Ohioan reaching double digits in the Granite State, and the Real Clear Politics rankings show Kasich running third in New Hampshire, inching past Walker.
Yesterday, as the Washington Post reported, the news for Kasich in the first primary state got just a little better.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has signed Thomas D. Rath, a longtime fixture in New Hampshire Republican politics, to lead his Republican presidential campaign efforts in the first-in-the-nation primary state, Kasich’s campaign announced late Tuesday.Rath, a party elder and former state attorney general who has served as a senior adviser to the presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney, George W. Bush and Bob Dole, will become Kasich’s New Hampshire campaign co-chairman and senior national adviser.
This is the sort of development that should make Jeb Bush a little nervous. Rath is hardly a household name outside of New Hampshire, but in the state, he’s a quintessential Republican insider, helping represent the state’s GOP establishment.
He is, in other words, exactly the sort of guy who’s supposed to gravitate to the former governor of Florida. And yet, Rath is now a member of Team Kasich.
Remember, for much of 2015, Jeb Bush represented a certain political archetype: in the massive GOP field, Bush played the role of responsible grown-up. Everyone knew exactly what to expect from him: he was the twice-elected governor of a key swing state, with broad backing from his party’s establishment, who would generally steer clear of the race’s more ridiculous antics.
The trouble, of course, is that Kasich is the exact same kind of candidate, with the same background, appealing to the same intra-party constituencies.
So long as Jeb Bush was the lone figure in the “governing party” space, he had very little to worry about at this stage of the race – the establishment didn’t have any other credible choices. But as Bush proves to be a less-than-effective candidate, all of a sudden, there’s Kasich reminding GOP insiders they have another option.
Watch this space.