MOUNT PLEASANT — Two days ahead of the South Carolina Republican primary election, Ohio Gov. John Kasich was rallying campaign workers, citing two national polls that said he would defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton more decisively than any GOP rival.
Kasich, who finished second behind Donald Trump in the New Hampshire primary, told volunteers the sun is rising on his campaign after “we walked in obscurity for a long time.”
He picked up an endorsement from the editorial board of South Carolina’s largest newspaper, The Post and Courier, on Thursday afternoon, and was endorsed by the second-largest paper, The State, the day before.
A new Suffolk University/USA TODAY poll said in a head-to-head general election, Kasich could beat Clinton by 11 points, or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by 3 points.
A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday also said Kasich would score the largest victory over Clinton and would be the most competitive against Sanders, who the poll said could defeat any leading GOP rival.
However, the Quinnipiac Poll’s assistant director, Tim Malloy, said Kasich is “in fourth place (nationally) with 6 percent in the Republican presidential pack, unlikely to make it to the main event.”
The 63-year-old governor hopes to defy expectations, and often tells audiences that he’s been doing things that he was told he couldn’t do all his life. Kasich was elected to Congress at age 26 and served nine terms until 2001. He also hosted a Fox News program, worked as an investment banker and was elected governor of Ohio in 2010.
Still, he received less than 2 percent of the vote in the Iowa caucus, and polls have shown him near the back of the pack in South Carolina, behind Jeb Bush and roughly tied with Ben Carson.
In Mount Pleasant, campaign volunteers included locals, reinforcements from Ohio, and others including New York City commercial real estate broker Ashley Earnest, 31, who flew to South Carolina with her dog Grits to help out.
“I think we, as voters, need to take some ownership,” said Earnest. “If we keep electing the extremes nothing will happen.”
Kasich has positioned himself as the least divisive candidate, and a leader unwilling to base his campaign on fear and insults. The New Hampshire primary gave him a large boost, and on Thursday he was beaming about the endorsement he received the previous day from The State.
“We’re opening offices all over the country,” Kasich told volunteers.
He plans to campaign in the Palmetto State through Friday evening but will be in New England when South Carolinians vote Saturday.
Kasich told The Post and Courier’s editorial board that he saw little need to “drive around, waving at voters as they go in to polling places” the day of the primary, but that shouldn’t be seen as a diminished effort.
“What more could I do here?” he said.
There will be 23 Republican primaries in between South Carolina’s on Saturday and Ohio’s on March 15 — a winner-take-all primary the governor expects to win.
Kasich said the March 8 Michigan primary, also a winner-take-all, with 58 delegates, is “probably” one he must also win to be competitive.
Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 or twitter.com/DSladeNews.