Manchester, New Hampshire (CNN)John Kasich locked up an influential endorsement Tuesday night in New Hampshire on the heels of a new poll showing a jump in support for the Ohio Governor in the first-in-the-nation primary state.
Kasich picks up key New Hampshire endorsement
Republican operative Tom Rath will serve as senior national adviser and co-chair of Kasich's New Hampshire campaign - Rath is a former New Hampshire GOP Committeeman and state Attorney General. He backed Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, and served as national advisor to the presidential campaign of President George W. Bush.
"Our country needs Governor Kasich," Rath said in a statement. "He has a proven track record of balancing the federal budget, reforming our military and turning around one of our nation's largest states. Beyond his accomplishments, Governor Kasich governs in a way that includes everyone. He is sending our country the message that everyone deserves a chance, everyone deserves a voice, and he will help give it to them. That's a powerful message in New Hampshire and the right one for our nation."
Rath joins New Hampshire campaign chair and former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu - who Kasich credited back in June with convincing him to seriously consider a 2016 presidential bid even though few Americans outside Ohio knew who he was.
Kasich's debate performance was widely praised last week and he is at third place in New Hampshire at 12%, according to a Boston Herald/Franklin Pierce University poll -- a jump from his 7% support in the state in a late-July Monmouth University poll.
At a town hall campaign event in Peterborough, New Hampshire, on Tuesday night, Kasich acknowledged that the debate changed the political landscape.
"Now since the debate there's a lot more people that know about me," Kasich told around 130 people gathered to hear him. "Thank god for Donald Trump, 24 million people tuned in to see something about me."
While Kasich didn't shy away from praising Trump's star power, he has been reticent to publicly criticize the businessman, who is currently leading the polls nationally and in New Hampshire.
"I don't have time to talk about anybody else, because nobody knows about me," Kasich said, pledging to keep the focus on his qualifications for president. "We've got enough negativity, let somebody else worry about that stuff."
However, Kasich said that while he understood the frustrations of Americans who are attracted to Trump's candidacy, the country also needs leaders with proven track records.
"People think the government in many cases isn't working for them," Kasich said, listing issues such as student debt, poverty, unemployment, and drug addiction. "This is a real frustration. I think acknowledging the problem is fine, but Americans don't want to be stuck... these things are solvable, this is not that hard."
TV ads funded by independent super PAC "New Day for America" started playing across New Hampshire in early July, but the New Hampshire campaign - with three staffers and a newly hired state campaign manager still getting to know the candidate - is also banking on the effectiveness of town hall-style events.
"These town halls are terrific. I love them, because it gives people a chance to see you over time, and I think what it gets down to is you demonstrate a level of confidence - competence - and then people have to decide whether they like you or not," Kasich told reporters Tuesday night.