Ohio Gov. John Kasich plans to campaign exclusively in Michigan after the Super Tuesday primaries with an army of Buckeye State volunteers and crisscross the state in a bid to win the March 8 Republican presidential primary, a top adviser said Friday.
Kasich will arrive in Michigan on either March 1 or March 2 and tour the state by bus until the primary vote the following Tuesday, said John Weaver, senior strategist for the Kasich campaign.
“We’ll treat it like we’re running for governor,” said Weaver, who worked on Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s successful campaigns.
With just over two weeks until Michigan’s primary, the Kasich campaign has about 1,000 Ohioians in the state volunteering for the governor’s campaign in door-to-door canvassing and phone banking, Weaver said.
“We’re going to treat Michigan like we treated New Hampshire – no one is going to outwork us,” he said.
Kasich finished second in the Feb. 9 New Hampshire primary with 16 percent of the vote, far behind winner Donald Trump, who captured 35 percent of the Granite State’s GOP vote.
Ohio’s proximity to Michigan makes it logistically easier for Kasich’s volunteers to drive into the state, especially Republican-heavy Oakland and Macomb counties.
“I’m hoping and praying they left their Ohio State jackets back in Columbus,” Weaver joked.
New Day for America, the super political action committee supporting Kasich’s presidential bid, also is beefing up its operation in Michigan.
The super PAC has six employees in Michigan working out of three offices in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Mount Clemens and marshalling volunteers to make calls to Republican voters and pitch Kasich’s resume as a two-term governor and nine-term congressman.
“We want our volunteers talking about John Kasich and persuading voters, not just collecting data,” said Dave Luketic, political director of New Day for America.
The super PAC is the process of buying television advertising in Michigan, but aides emphasize the operation resembles a traditional political campaign without any coordination with the candidate they’re supporting.
“We’re not just a TV and mail attack dog,” said Connie Wehrkamp, communications director for the pro-Kasich super PAC.
Kasich has repeatedly said Michigan is an important state in his bid for the Republican presidential nomination. The March 8 primary comes one week before Ohio Republicans go to the polls in a winner-take-all delegate bonanza.
Michigan has 59 nominating delegates who will be divided up proportionally in its primary.
Kasich made four campaign stops Monday and Tuesday in Grand Rapids, East Lansing, Utica and Livonia while other GOP presidential hopefuls were sweating out a race in Saturday’s South Carolina primary, where Kasich has trailed in the polls.
Weaver said Kasich has sought to present voters with an alternative to the heated campaigns Trump, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are waging against each other.
“It is a stark contrast between this traveling negative road show where people are attacking each other at every stop versus Gov. Kasich, who is talking about a positive message and fixing problems,” Weaver said.
Republican strategist Karl Rove said earlier this week that Kasich’s momentum from New Hampshire’s Feb. 9 primary is not enough to propel him to victory in Michigan.
Kasich’s allies have eyed Vermont and Massachusetts as March 1 Super Tuesday states where he could defeat Trump.
“If you want to be competitive in Michigan, you have to prove you are competitive in the earlier states,” Rove said in an interview with The Detroit News. “He needs to have some bigger wins on March 1 to do something on March 8.”