John Kasich’s supporters are working the phones today, making “persuasion calls” to win over voters who are still undecided. But while the Republican presidential candidate himself has projected an image of optimism and positivity, the supporters’ scripts for phone calls are not as sunny.
At Kasich’s Manchester headquarters, a script, viewed by ABC News today, instructed those making calls to tell voters that one of Kasich’s opponents, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, "is trying to keep the family business up and running.” The line comes before the caller is supposed to even pause or ask a question -- and just after they tell New Hampshirites their name and that “John Kasich is running for President to balance the federal budget and restore American strength in the world.”
Kasich, who is seeing a surge of support in New Hampshire just as voting gets underway today, has taken pains to avoid criticizing other candidates and frequently tells voters and reporters that he is running a positive campaign. Bush’s campaign on Monday released an advertisement attacking Kasich’s record and past statements, after which Kasich said in an interview with Fox News on Monday night that he was “really disappointed in Jeb."
“He’s taking a very low road to the highest office in the land,” Kasich said. "It's been negative all along.”
A super PAC supporting Bush’s candidacy, Right to Rise, has frequently attacked Kasich and other candidates over the course of the campaign.
While Kasich has been largely reluctant to even mention other candidates’ names, Kasich’s call script does not mince words. After asking voters if they plan to vote in today’s primary in the state and if they will support Kasich, callers are then instructed to tell voters about Kasich’s economic record before blasting Bush again.
"Jeb Bush has used his special interest Super PAC to run a negative campaign and drag this campaign into the mud,” the script reads. "Rather than have a debate about the issues, Jeb Bush wants more political games. We hope you will consider John Kasich on February 9th.”
Asked about the script today, Kasich downplayed the criticisms of Bush.
"Come one -- that's like a little pat on the hand compared to the anvils they've been dropping on my head for the past two weeks,” Kasich told ABC News in an interview at his campaign’s office in Nashua, New Hampshire. "And it's a little disappointing, because, you know, you would like to think people could get elected by saying what they're for, rather than trying to trash somebody else. But that's the name of the game today, and we're trying to reverse that.”
On Sunday, Kasich told reporters in Nashua that he would hit back if he were attacked.
"If we come out of here and do well, people are going to say, ‘Wow! I mean, he was positive. He never went after anybody, and he did really well?’” Kasich said. "Well look, if I’m attacked, I’m not going to [sit] there and take a beating. But our campaign has been fundamentally positive, and I think it’s working.”
ABC News’ Tom Llamas contributed to this report.