The last candidate to make the prime-time stage made some of the biggest impressions at the first Republican presidential debate in Cleveland on Thursday.
John Kasich barely made the cut for the main event in his home-state, but the Ohio governor got a boost from the friendly crowd and was considered by many to be among the stand-outs in the debate, earning raves from pundits for his folksy style and compassionate conservative message.
Kasich has so far embraced the role of underdog, noting in a post-debate interview with Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that critics doubted he could make the debate stage, stick out among the big field of contenders or compete in fundraising.
Republican strategist Ford O’Connell said Kasich “may not have that immediate appeal to the base” but “he has that establishment appeal, and that’s the majority of primary voters in New Hampshire.”
“He needs to keep emphasizing his blue collar roots and explain how he’s a doer,” O’Connell said. “When he talks about he balanced the federal budget [as a congressman in the 1990s], that’s music to the ears of Republican primary voters.”