John Kasich resorts to hugs in New Hampshire

Who Is John Kasich?
Who Is John Kasich?

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    Who Is John Kasich?

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Who Is John Kasich? 02:10

Story highlights

  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich tries to sway voters in New Hampshire
  • He even hugged a woman who was a Bernie Sanders supporter

Salem, New Hampshire (CNN)Former New Hampshire Sen. Gordon Humphrey is "leaning" toward endorsing Ohio Gov. John Kasich for president, saying Wednesday that he sounds "Reagenesque."

"I'm very impressed, I think he's done a very good job, his resume couldn't be better, his principles are fundamentally and yet his persona is, to use an overworked expression Reaganesque," Humphrey said. "In that he is a kind man at heart and people don't feel threatened by his conservative point of view."
The former two-term senator, who served with Kasich in Washington, is still eying other candidates. But former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is most definitely not on his radar right now.
    "I think political dynasties are unhealthy," Humphrey said, Wednesday, standing in the back of the Salem, New Hampshire, Elks Lodge where Kasich had just finished speaking. "That applies to Hillary as well, by the way."
    Kasich entered the Republican field at the back of the pack, facing questions of whether he would even make the cut to appear on stage at the first Republican debate. He not only did that, but rode a wave of discontent with the established "front-runners" in the field into solid standing in New Hampshire, running neck-and-neck with Bush.
    And that "Reaganesque", disarming conservatism? It's not something one of the most blunt candidates in the field has often displayed. (Democrats had a field day with Kasich's joke earlier in the day that he would eliminate teachers' lounges if he was "King of America.")
    But Kasich made some strong pivots at his town hall in Salem, New Hampshire Wednesday, winning over a college environmentalist and getting some begrudging respect from a retiree activist looking for guarantees for social security.
    "I've been told we have a lady here, a Bernie Sanders supporter, she wants to ask me a question, but I'm going to go right to her, right now, just like Phil Donahue," Kasich said. "Yes ma'am, what do you want to know?"
    Jane Lang, vice president of the union-backed Alliance for Retired Americans, asked whether he would look at expanding Social Security. As he sought to wrap up her question, reaching for the microphone, she said she wasn't done.
    "How about a handshake, how about a little hug?" he said as he pulled in for a brief embrace.
    The crowd laughed and applauded.
    "Listen, she's steamed up. She's steamed up and I don't blame her," he said, before launching into as slightly wonky response to her question.
    Kasich didn't give her a direct answer, Lang said, "I thought the whole meeting, the whole thing was danced around."
    But she did acknowledge he was personable and could easily sway even some Democrats to his side.
    "I know there are Democrats who have said they like him because he's like personable," she said after the town hall. "I think he is a personable guy, I just think he needs a little more education."
    Just after fielding Lang's question, Kasich moved to a college student.
    "Let me see if I can guess this, I'm like the Amazing Carnac," Kasich said, referencing the classic Johnny Carson sketch. "Is this about college costs?"
    Amanda Kiley, 20-year-old student at Manchester Community College, read a pre-written question pressing him on clean energy standards. Kasich then moved into a winding, philosophical answer that started with citing Pope Francis' encyclical seeking action against climate change, to citing St. Francis of Assisi and former Catholic thinker Michael Novak.
    He then ended by thanking her for standing on her principles. And he won over a new fan, mostly.
    "He did sound very positive about going forward and aiming more toward solar and wind power," said Kiley, who is a political independent. "Based on that answer, I want to say yes. But I still want to hear some more interviews from him. But I definitely like him and appreciate his response."