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Feb 10, 2016 5:27 PM

Kasich's NH showing could be tough to convert into more wins

The Associated Press

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) Republican presidential contender John Kasich spent time and money winning over New Hampshire voters.

He came to next-to-vote South Carolina on Wednesday with a short supply of both.

"You don't know me," Kasich told people in Mount Pleasant, a suburb of Charleston. "So I guess I've got to go back to the beginning."

The Ohio governor finished second in New Hampshire's primary, well behind Donald Trump but well ahead of others. That reflected Kasich's singular focus on the state.

By contrast, his campaign which has far less cash than any of his closest competitors has spent nothing on advertising in South Carolina, and the outside groups backing him have put out barely anything. The South Carolina GOP primary is Feb. 20.

That compares with the many millions that Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, along with their allies, invested in TV and radio commercials. In recent days, a super PAC boosting Bush put an additional $1.7 million into its South Carolina ad plan. Even Trump, a master of free publicity, is spending $1.2 million on paid ads.

South Carolina is not Kasich's only blind spot.

His all-in New Hampshire strategy also meant little attention to Nevada, the state that votes after South Carolina, or to most of the dozen states that hold March 1 contests.

"We don't have to win everything," said Kasich's senior adviser, Tom Rath. "What we need to do is win enough to keep us alive, which I think we absolutely can do."

Kasich, who like his rivals has several days of back-to-back South Carolina events planned, has spent little time in the state and has fewer employees and volunteers compared with the others. His presence hasn't been felt something he acknowledged at campaign stops on Wednesday as he sprinkled biographical details such as his father's career as a postman into his speeches.

"He can get in the game, but he's got to move fast," said Glenn McCall, a Republican National Committee member for South Carolina.

The pressure is on. Bush is hoping to parlay his family's long history in South Carolina, as well as his endorsement by Sen. Lindsey Graham, into a spot ahead of Kasich and Rubio, at least. At a rally in Spartanburg, Rubio called the state "definitive and determinative."

Kasich plans to break from South Carolina politicking Monday to visit Michigan, which votes March 8. He sees the potential to do well in that state, and he has a home-court advantage when Ohio votes March 15.

Still, given the steep climb in South Carolina and the next few states, Kasich must act quickly to convert his New Hampshire win into a cash wave. His $2.5 million in the bank at the beginning of the year was one-third as much as Bush had and one-quarter of Rubio's resources.

"This race is about to get very expensive," said Republican strategist Kevin Madden.

Kasich strategist John Weaver said Tuesday was the campaign's best fundraising night, but he declined to share numbers.

Rath, the Kasich adviser, said: "We have a lot of people who have been promising money if we perform." Similarly, an outside group helping Kasich held a donor call Wednesday. Last month, six of Kasich's biggest boosters gave the super PAC, New Day for America, $4 million.

As Kasich tries to get better known nationally, his rivals are eager to paint an unflattering picture of him.

The 63-year-old former congressman talks up his work on balancing budgets and portrays himself as a compromiser who can work with both parties. Bush has been hitting him as an ally of President Barack Obama for expanding Medicaid, something many elected Republicans oppose.

Already, Bush's super political action committee, Right to Rise, has spent more than $100,000 on mailings to South Carolinians that cast Kasich, among others, in a negative light, filings with the Federal Election Commission show.

Bush campaign aides say they will point to perceived weaknesses in Kasich even as they continue to hammer away at Rubio. For his part, Rubio also said he's ready to engage more in direct contrasts with his opponents.

"Millions are going to get spent against me but I'm going to do my best to stay positive, to talk about my record." Kasich said at a pizza parlor in Mount Pleasant.

His super PAC also stands ready to fight.

Matt David, a senior strategist with New Day for America, said the super PAC plans to counterpunch any Bush assaults on Kasich's record.

"We will respond aggressively to his flailing campaign," he said.


Bykowicz reported from Washington.


Associated Press writers Steve Peoples in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Bill Barrow in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.


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