Gov. John Kasich didn’t have to pack his bags and come crying back to Ohio Tuesday.
Instead, the Ohio governor delivered on a different promise: He made good on his plan to pull off a solid performance in the New Hampshire Republican primary.
Kasich finished second in the nation’s first presidential primary of 2016, trailing nearly 18 percentage points behind reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump, but still ahead of eight other Republican presidential candidates.
It was just the night Kasich needed to keep his White House dreams alive.
“This country is finally going to get a real introduction to Gov. Kasich,” said Chip Gerhardt, president of Government Strategies Group, a Cincinnati political consulting firm. Gerhardt also traveled to New Hampshire to spend time with the Kasich campaign earlier this year.
Kasich wasn’t shy about his strategy these past three months. He held more than 100 town hall meetings in New Hampshire, and his campaign ran TV ads in the state. He largely ignored Iowa – even campaigning in the Granite State the night of the Iowa caucuses.
That nice showing Tuesday, Kasich hopes, will put media spotlight on his campaign, garner cash for his cause and attract voter support in other state primaries.
That strategy might very well pay off for now, said Jared Kamrass, a political consultant at Cincinnati-based Rivertown Strategies. Kamrass said some Republican donors, especially ones who don’t like Trump, are looking for a candidate to support. Some of those donors might pick Kasich after Tuesday.
“He’ll start to raise money tonight,” Kamrass said Tuesday evening of Kasich. “Campaigns cost money. The fundraising aspect might be the most substantial take away from tonight.”
Still, the governor has another 48 states to go before the Republican nominee is named at the 2016 Republican National Convention in July. Kasich and his campaign began travel Tuesday to South Carolina, where he’ll launch a three-day campaign tour of the state ahead of the Republican debate Saturday.
Don’t expect South Carolina’s voters to be as taken with Kasich just yet.
“The unfortunate reality for the governor is tomorrow, he has to wake up and campaign in South Carolina,” Kamrass said.
South Carolina voters are more conservative – Kasich campaigned to win over moderate Republicans, Independents and even Democrats in New Hampshire.
Plus, Kasich spent a lot of time -- weeks -- campaigning in the Granite State to earn second place in the primary. Now, he only has 10 days to campaign in South Carolina before the Feb. 20 primary there.
And, he’ll have to compete with Trump, who’s still leading the Republican polls, as well as a well-organized Jeb Bush campaign in South Carolina, said Chris Kelley, a political science professor at Miami University.
“(Kasich) should have done well in New Hampshire because he invested 100 percent of his campaign in New Hampshire,” Kelley said. “It was a good night for Kasich. But I just don’t see what it does for him in the long run. I don’t see where he’s planted a flag in another state.”
Kamrass said Kasich has a shot at picking up primary voters in northeastern states such as Massachusetts or Maine, and in western states, including Colorado.
There’s one state's primary he can almost certainly count on winning -- if he can stretch his campaign to March 15.
“(He’ll) be able to point to tonight and say, ‘I told you I was going to do well in New Hampshire. Now, count on me to get to Ohio,’” Kamrass said.