MANCHESTER, NH – Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans a likely visit to the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state of New Hampshire next month or in early October, a top Kasich adviser told Fox News.
A trip by the very vocal critic of President Trump – first reported by The Washington Post – will spark further speculation that Kasich is seriously weighing a long-shot GOP primary challenge against the president.
“The governor’s never closed the door to challenging Trump,” senior adviser John Weaver told Fox News.
Trump easily won the 2016 GOP presidential primary in New Hampshire, launching him toward winning the Republican nomination and eventually the White House. Kasich came in second behind Trump, but ahead of the rest of the large field of GOP contenders. He eventually ended his White House bid late in the primary calendar but never endorsed Trump during the general election and to date remains critical of the president.
“Our organization in New Hampshire has stayed very solid since the 2016 primary,” Weaver highlighted.
And he added that “in fact it’s grown” given the way Trump has handled himself as president.
“It’s the prudent thing to do to visit the state not only to talk to our team members but also to New Hampshire citizens about the process and their role in it,” Weaver added.
And he emphasized that Kasich – a fiscally conservative longtime congressman before serving two terms as Ohio’s governor – has seen an increase in overtures by supporters urging him to run in 2020, due to their concerns about the president’s handling of the economy. He added that more business leaders have reached out, “concerned about Trump’s erratic behavior on trade policy.”
Kasich visited the crucial first primary state a handful of times since ending his presidential campaign, most recently last November following the midterm elections.
“I really don’t know what I’m going to do,” Kasich told Fox News at the time, emphasizing that “all the options are on the table.”
“I have to see what the situation is and whether I could really have an impact. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time if there’s not a clear path to having a major impact,” Kasich explained.
The obvious early voting state to make a stand against Trump would be New Hampshire, a purple state with a strong libertarian streak that allows independent voters to cast ballots in either the GOP or Democratic presidential primaries.
But even though Kasich retains a small group of solid supporters in the state, any path to winning the nomination still seems far-fetched at best.
The president enjoys strong support among Granite State Republicans. The latest evidence: a poll this month from the University of New Hampshire showing Trump with an 82 percent approval score among Republicans.
There’s already a Republican challenging Trump in the primaries – former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld. He’s been making near-weekly trips to New Hampshire since February and officially launched his bid in April. But he’s failed – to date – to make a dent in the polls.
Last week, former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford visited New Hampshire, as he mulls a primary challenge against Trump. Sanford told Fox News he’ll decide by around Labor Day if he’s going to mount what he has conceded would be a "long-shot” GOP primary bid against the president.
Aides tell Fox News the trip and the feedback Sanford received may make him more likely to run.
The aim of the longtime deficit hawk is to make the explosion of federal spending and a ballooning national debt – which has accelerated during Trump’s tenure in the White House – a conversation in the presidential campaign.
“I think we need to have a conversation as Republicans about what it means to be a Republican,” Sanford said. “One of the cornerstones to the Republican Party historically was, do we spend beyond our means? Do we believe in some level of financial sanity? And that seems to have gone out of the window of late.”
But Sanford – as he has since first acknowledging he was considering a primary challenge – once again downplayed his chances, emphasizing “I think you have to acknowledge upfront that it’s a long shot.”