Arguably the most unlikely member of the GOP second tier of candidates was the last to enter the race and the last to sneak into the first Republican debate.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who many wrote off early as merely another also-ran, has quietly surged to a second place spot in the latest New Hampshire poll overtaking Jeb Bush in the second early-state primary.
Holding steady at a dozen points, Kasich has emerged as Bush’s chief competitor in his pitch as the alternative for the more moderate, blue-collar segment among the party’s base.
A former member of the Gingrich revolution and elected most recently as the Tea Party candidate for governor, he has ironically embraced a rebranded version of George W. Bush’s ’compassionate conservatism’ in a way Jeb has been unable to champion.
Weaving his personal faith into a theory of public justice, Kasich appears to be striking a chord with voters who both want a less invasive government and yet one that offers a helping hand.
As CBS News’ Jacqueline Alemany notes, New Hampshire does not usually back candidates who talk openly about religion, but something about the way Kasich talks connects with voters. That’s good for Kasich, who is counting on success there.