In an interview with National Journal, Kasich pledged another atypical tactic: He's not going to attack any of his opponents—Hillary Clinton included—and will instead focus on offering solutions to the nation's pressing problems. He lived up to that commitment in his town hall meetings this week, not mentioning Clinton's name at all and avoiding referencing any of his GOP opponents.
"If I'm talking about someone else, I'm not talking about me. And I would rather them know what my record is and my passion is. So if I'm spending my time attacking other people, that doesn't get me anywhere. Frankly, it's not what people want. They want to know: Do you have a record, do you have solutions, can you lead?" Kasich said. "It's a lot more important for me to cement that down than getting people hooting and hollering."
There are signs that the strategy is working. Kasich is the GOP candidate with the most momentum in New Hampshire, transforming a long-shot campaign into one with a legitimate chance at winning the state's primary. He's traveled to New Hampshire 12 times since early March, ranking him near the top of candidate visits during that time. Kasich's New Day for America super PAC has been airing nearly $4 million in ads introducing the governor to unfamiliar voters. On Wednesday, he landed the backing of former New Hampshire Attorney General Tom Rath, one of the most important (and sought-after) GOP operatives in the state. And Kasich's widely-praised debate performance last Thursday vaulted him into third place in the state with 12 percent of the vote, according to a new Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald survey.
Kasich's rise is all the more surprising given that he's not running away from his record of spending nearly all of his life in government. At a time when Republican anger at career politicians is near an all-time high, Kasich cajoles the audience with tales of his time writing budgets as a committee chair in Congress and working with legislators in Ohio on a bipartisan basis. While many consultants urge their clients to focus on a vision for the future, Kasich is at his most charming when recalling the past. Indeed, one of his most impressive accomplishments during his campaign so far is translating a glaring political weakness—a career in government—into a political asset, selling himself as the most experienced, successful candidate in the field.
"[Voters] usually look at people from Washington and think, 'That's another blowhard,' " Kasich told National Journal. "But when I was [in Congress], we had a team of people that solved problems—reformed welfare, balanced budgets, cut taxes. This was a remarkable period."
Kasich's advisers see a little of Donald Trump's personality in the governor—his senior strategist John Weaver called him a more optimistic, experienced version of Trump—and attribute much of his rise in New Hampshire to his bluntness and authenticity. Like Trump, his speeches are often unscripted and frequently end up veering into tangents unrelated to their original point. He's got a reputation for lashing out at critics, dating back to his tenure in Congress. Like Trump, he thinks he's underestimated by the media and relishes pointing out flawed conventional wisdom. ("First people didn't think I was going to get in," Kasich said. "Then they said we'll never raise any money. Then they said, 'He's getting in too late.' Now they're saying, 'What a brilliant strategy that he got in late.' ... I've always been underestimated.") Both Trump and Kasich talk tough against China. Both have even talked about how good-looking their wives are at campaign appearances.