Ohio Gov. John Kasich may sneak into the first Republican presidential debate based on recent polls, which would spare him the embarrassment of not qualifying for a major campaign event in his own state.
Kasich got into the race late, launching his campaign in Columbus last week, but has one of the deepest resumes in the field, including a stint as House Budget chairman in the 90s, a presidential run in 2000, a hosting job at Fox News, and finally a resounding re-election to a second term as governor in 2014. He’s positioned himself as less ideological and partisan than his rivals and notably broke with conservatives to embrace Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion in his state, which he defended on moral grounds.
The governor scored 5% support in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, no small feat in a 17-person Republican field where fellow GOP candidate Donald Trump’s surge has mostly killed momentum for candidates outside the top tier. The August 6 Fox News debate admits the top 10 polling candidates nationally and, although the full criteria is unknown, an NBC News average of recent national surveys now puts Kasich in 10th place with 2.8%.
There’s still a decent chance that the final round of polls will drop him in the rankings before Tuesday’s cutoff, but it’s the first sign of a national bump from his announcement, which garnered significant coverage and prompted a number of high-profile interviews with major outlets.
Kasich’s strategy is most focused on winning early primary state New Hampshire, however, where pro-Kasich outside group has spent at least $1.7 million on ads tied to his announcement. The group’s raised over $11 million as of June 30 and there’s some polling evidence the TV blitz is having an effect – Kasich’s support jumped to 7% in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this week and in a separate Monmouth University poll, good for a top-four spot in each.