- Ohio Gov. John Kasich insisted he could perform well in the upcoming slate of southern primaries
- "I believe we can win Mississippi," Kasich said, noting that state's powerful former senator, Trent Lott, had backed him, as had Alabama's current governor Robert Bentley
Kasich, who rode to second place in New Hampshire on a positive, independent-minded message, is expected to confront far less friendly terrain in South Carolina and the southern states that follow it.
He told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront" on Thursday that those states would treat him more kindly than pundits predict, pointing to endorsements in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi.
"I believe we can win Mississippi," Kasich said, noting that state's powerful former senator, Trent Lott, had backed him, as had Alabama's Gov. Robert Bentley.
"We're not just going to lay back. I think my message will really work in the Deep South."
The Ohio governor has already pledged to win Michigan, which votes later in March, and he reiterated Thursday that he is expecting the Midwestern states to thrust him to the nomination. But the governor's remarks indicated that he sees a need to win some delegates before voters there head to the polls.
He has downplayed his chances in South Carolina, and he declined to say how he'd fare in the state's primary on February 20: "I'm not like Muhammad Ali -- I can't predict what round someone's going to down."
Kasich has bragged about his campaign's reluctance to go negative in New Hampshire, even as he has suggested he will be more willing to in rough-and-tumble South Carolina.
And the silver medal-winner on Thursday even claimed some credit for influencing other Republican rivals as he reacted to Donald Trump's decision to pull a negative ad in the state and replace it with a positive one.
"Donald Trump saying he's going to go positive," Kasich said, "I sort of predicted that if we could show that positive works, it might change the tenor of the campaign."
Kasich also told Burnett that he would sign an anti-abortion bill on his desk "probably this weekend."