MANCHESTER, N.H. — Former New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu is an MIT graduate with a mind for science and a cautious nature. And the last thing he — or any other campaign insider — likes to do is raise expectations.
But as a key adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sununu was all but bubbling over at lunch Sunday about the possibility that his candidate could surprise everyone in Tuesday night’s presidential primary.
“We’ve got a chance — a real chance — to finish second,” said Sununu. “Even a close third would be good. Either way, it’ll carry John into the next round. We are already getting ready for South Carolina.”
In political circles here, both local and national, Kasich is being talked about as a late-rising factor in the Republican race.
And among the three governors and former governors in the race, Kasich has a chance to finish first.
“I think we HAVE to have a governor and it could well be John at the head of that pack,” said Michael Steele, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
Polls show Kasich in the thick of the race for second behind Donald Trump, and a poor debate performance by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) may have created an opportunity for him. Kasich campaign sources told The Huffington Post their post-debate internal poll numbers show Kasich solidly in second place.
National reporters and handlers are comparing Kasich and Rubio on the stump. Kasich, a policy wonk and former congressman with deep knowledge of the issues, interacts with voters easily and at length during New Hampshire town hall meetings, of which he has held more than 100 in the past year.
Rubio, as he did during Saturday night’s debate, tends to repeat canned lines. He takes few questions and claims he is in a hurry to get to the next event. But then he hangs around to take selfies with what seems like the whole crowd.
Joe McQuaid, a studious sort who is the publisher of the New Hampshire Union-Leader, disparaged Rubio’s lack of detailed speeches and policy discussions. By most accounts, he almost chose to endorse Kasich before settling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Christie savaged Rubio in the debate. It hasn’t seemed to help Christie in the polls, but it may have given Kasich an opening.
“We’ve got a real shot to make news,” said Sununu. “We’re where we want to be.”
Scott Conroy contributed reporting.
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Read more here: Could John Kasich Surprise Everyone In New Hampshire?