Fresh off two significant endorsements from local newspapers, along with new polls showing a January surge, Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is oozing confidence in New Hampshire.
“Hey, nobody said they liked my haircut!” Kasich said Tuesday as he strode past reporters in New Boston. “How’s it looking?”
His grin never seemed to fade throughout the day. The Ohio governor received an endorsement from the Boston Globe late Monday night, and awoke Tuesday morning to the support of the well-regarded Concord Monitor. Kasich’s New Hampshire support has risen to 12 percent, according to a recent Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce poll, placing him in a statistical tie for second place in the state.
“I’m, like, in complete shock,” Kasich said at a town hall meeting here in the Granite State, his first of three for the day. “Honestly, little old me? The Boston Globe?”
In a campaign season defined by attacks and mudslinging, Kasich has engineered a potential comeback on an opposite track, appealing to voter optimism.
“You can live on two sides of the street,” Kasich told a crowd at Franklin Pierce University in Rindge. “You can live on the dark side, where you know, ‘woe is us’ -- the old Eeyore effect. Or you can actually live on the sunny side of the street, and not only believe, but know, that working together as Americans, we can beat all these challenges.”
He used the word “sunny” no less than six times throughout the day, and used words like “hope” and “idealism” to describe his campaign.
Kasich’s humble delivery and sunny optimism have been carefully aimed: According to the Franklin Pierce/Boston Herald poll, 31 percent of New Hampshire Republicans say they could not envision supporting Donald Trump in a general election. Another 40 percent of New Hampshire voters do not belong to any party, yet are allowed to join for the day to participate in the primary.
“In order for him to win, he’s got to get independents here to grab a ballot,” said Tom Ulig, a retired business owner from Rindge who came to see Kasich speech at Franklin Pierce.
Other campaigns are making the same bet in New Hampshire, notably Chris Christie and Jeb Bush. Both have poured resources into the state, and both have presented themselves to moderates as purple-state pragmatists. But while Bush increasingly goes after Trump, and Christie focuses his ire on President Obama, Kasich barely mentioned any of his rivals by name.
“When the negative movement pops up, I think we have to push back against it,” Kasich said. “What we have to do as Americans is talk together, work together. And this is not some sweet little lullaby, this is the way it has to be.”
While Kasich, who recently called himself “the prince of light and hope," might sound sweet, Ulig didn’t think he was cavity-inducing.
“When you say ‘sunny side’ it may sound kind of naïve,” he told ABC News. “I don’t think he’s naïve. I think he’s optimistic toward what can be done.”
Asked if Kasich has secured his vote, though, Ulig hesitated. “I’m leaning towards him,” he said. "I want to see some of the other moderates.”
He’ll have to wait nearly a week to see them. Every other Republican candidate will remain in Iowa throughout the week, except for Kasich: After a 16-hour visit with his family in Ohio and two days stumping in Iowa, the governor will head right back to the Granite State. As caucuses begin 1,000 miles away, he’ll be wrapping up his 84th New Hampshire town hall, far more than any other candidate.
As a beaming Kasich hustled out of his final event on Tuesday in Amherst, the speakers blared -- what else? -- U2’s bright-side anthem, “Beautiful Day.”