John Kasich focuses on experience during New Hampshire debate

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who said repeatedly that he has to do well in New Hampshire to keep his presidential campaign going, pitched his experience to voters Saturday night in the last debate before Tuesday’s primary.

As Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie trade jabs and Donald Trump and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush bashed each other in the debate, Kasich stayed out of the fray and used his limited speaking opportunities to drive home his experience.

In the first segment, Kasich fielded just two questions during the nationally televised GOP debate from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. But he picked up steam mid-way through and fielded questions that played directly to what he views as his strengths: his record in Ohio and his definition of conservatism as one that doesn’t leave the downtrodden out.

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Kasich pledged to advance an aggressive agenda in his first 100 days in the White House that includes freezing government regulations, reducing taxes, fixing Social Security and proposing a plan to balance the federal budget. “We are going to move America forward. I promise you,” he said.

Kasich defended his position on immigration that 11 million illegal immigrants should not be automatically deported because it would break up families. The U.S. should finish the border fence, implement a guest worker program and let illegal immigrants pay a fine and remain as non-citizens, he said. “We have to have practical solutions.”

Former Centerville mayor Mark Kingseed, who is campaigning for Kasich in New Hampshire, said New Hampshire voters appreciate Kasich’s positive message.

“He doesn’t get enough time (talking during the debates.) That’s frustrating for those of us who support him but when he does get time, he knocks it out of the park,” Kingseed said.

A contentious debate

The overall tenor of the two-hour debate was feisty and contentious. Christie went on the offense against Rubio over his lack of experience, accused him of truancy for missing U.S. Senate votes and said the Florida senator relies on canned speeches and talking points. Bush attacked Trump, saying he wanted to use eminent domain to take away property from an elderly woman so he could build a limo parking lot.

And they had plenty of criticism for President Barack Obama and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is fighting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination.

Issues covered included leadership, experience, temperament; the specter of a nuclear North Korea; immigration; health care; the Islamic State; torture; heroin addiction; Zika virus health crisis; and excessive force by police.

On the question about police-community relations, Trump said police deserve more respect across the country and they are “amazing.” Kasich noted that he created a police-community relations task force to address concerns over excessive force in Ohio. The task force was created after the fatal police shooting deaths of Tamir Rice in Cleveland and John Crawford III in Beavercreek.

Just 3 days till primary

The debate comes just three days before New Hampshire voters will go to the polls in the presidential primaries.

Kasich, who has focused his campaign time and money in New Hampshire, won endorsements from Portsmouth Herald, Concord Monitor, The Bow Times and other newspapers in New Hampshire as well as The New York Times and the Boston Globe.

Kasich held his 100th townhall meeting in the state on Friday in the small town of Bedford. And late last week, New Day for America, a super PAC backing Kasich, dumped $1 million into a TV time in New Hampshire for a 30-second spot that portrays Kasich as a candidate who is sticking to a positive message while other GOP contenders throw mud at one another.

Kasich, who finished 8th in Iowa, has repeatedly said that he needs a strong showing in New Hampshire to continue his presidential campaign but exactly what that means is unclear.

Primaries and caucuses held between February and June are the process for awarding delegates. At stake on Tuesday are 23 delegates. Independent voters are allowed to pick which primary they vote in — Democrat or Republican.

According to Politico, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas grabbed the most speaking time, followed by Rubio, Trump, Christie, Kasich and Bush. Retired brain surgeon Ben Carson had the least talking time, the website reported.

Six of the seven men made a prediction for which team will win Super Bowl 50 while Carson punted and said the winner would be either the Denver Broncos or the Carolina Panthers. Bush and Christie are backing Denver while Kasich, Rubio, Trump and Cruz predict a Carolina victory.

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