CLEVELAND—It’s a little misleading to say that John Kasich is skipping the Republican National Convention being held in the state he leads.
Yes, the Ohio governor declined to actually speak at the convention, in large part because he has refused to endorse the candidate the convention is nominating, Donald Trump. But he’s been a man about town this week nonetheless, attending several of the events surrounding the convention while shadowboxing with the Trump campaign. None of them carried more symbolic significance than his decision—his insistence really—to speak to the New Hampshire delegation on Wednesday afternoon.
Kasich finished a distant second to Trump in the first-in-the-nation primary, but the result was enough to sustain his candidacy, allowing him to stay in the race long enough to win Ohio in March. Speaking to a tent filled with delegates in the Little Italy section of Cleveland, Kasich spent 15 minutes reminiscing about the 106 town halls he held in New Hampshire and issuing a renewed call for unity—national, not Republican—before he uttered the words that many in the audience most wanted to hear.
“For the people in New Hampshire,” Kasich concluded, “I’ll be back.”
This wasn’t a man declaring his second presidential candidacy four years out, but neither was it an innocuous throwaway line, offered up as a matter of politeness. No politician goes to New Hampshire by accident, and no one forced Kasich to speak to the state’s Republican delegation at a convention he pointedly refused to participate in. Even when he found out that delegates from Rhode Island made up half the crowd, Kasich said he wanted “to talk to New Hampshire.”