Ohio Governor John Kasich has officially come in second place in New Hampshire after tirelessly working in the state to pick up a surprising standing in the first-in-the-nation primary.
“We were 1 percent in the national polls and people are like ‘How can you ever win?’ and then, you know, things are just — we’re walking in a total obscurity here,” Kasich said as he addressed supporters, marveling at his comeback.
With 60 percent reporting, both CNN and Fox News have declared him as the second place winner with 16.3 percent. (Donald Trump earned more than twice as much of the vote in the state with 34.2 percent)
Considered unpalatable by many conservatives, Kasich struggled to hone his message on the trail before finally settling on an upbeat, optimistic message in an effort to appeal to independents.
Kasich’s campaign was managed by John Weaver — a deeply controversial moderate establishment consultant who was once fired by John McCain in 2007 and struggled mightily with Jon Huntsman in 2012 before earning only third place for him in New Hampshire.
But now, Kasich tops former Florida governor Jeb Bush — his Super PAC and campaign spending about one third of Bush’s combined $36 million in the state. He also beat fellow Governor Chris Christie, who shared the same political strategy to jumpstart his campaign.
“We never went negative, because we have more good to sell than to spend our time being critical of somebody else,” Kasich said during his speech this evening. “Maybe, just maybe, we are turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight, the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigns.”
Kasich’s polling numbers took a tumble after he tried to challenge Donald Trump in the CNBC debate in October, coming off as an angry, frustrated candidate desperate for attention. But he retreated back to New Hampshire, spending his time trying to sell himself as the “Prince of Light.”
That message, and his unfailing attention to New Hampshire, won the hearts of voters in the state, giving him victory in the establishment primary.
“I believe, and you think about it, and hope you agree, we are going to solve the problems in America not by being extreme, not by being first a Republican or Democrat, reminding everybody that we are Americans dedicating to shining up America.”
The future of his campaign, however, is uncertain.
Kasich’s polling numbers are dismal in the state, and it is unclear whether he has a path to any significant gains in upcoming states South Carolina, Florida, or Nevada.