The surprise news Tuesday night that New Hampshire’s heavyweight Republican operative Tom Rath signed on to John Kasich’s presidential campaign was due in large part to Rath's positive impression of Kasich in the televised debate.
Former New Hampshire Attorney General Rath helped quarterback the Granite State primary campaigns of George W. Bush in 2000 and Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012 — and, incidentally, he shares the name of the character played by Gregory Peck in the classic movie "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit."
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax on the morning after he declared for Ohio Gov. Kasich, Rath recalled how "a number of the candidates contacted me and asked for my support. I kept asking myself, 'Do I really want to do this again at 70?' And my wife would remind me of that whenever the phone rang. Several candidates contacted me and asked for my support.
"Gov. Kasich kept calling me. But the debate last week was also helpful toward making up my mind. I thought he was a unique person. I liked his tone — not mad at anyone, and we can’t appear mad if we are going to defeat Hillary Clinton."
Rath also said that the Electoral College was a factor in his decision — in other words, that Kasich could carry his home state of Ohio and its 18 electoral votes, which are critical to the election of a president.
Rath recalled how he discussed the presidential race at a recent lunch with friend Mitt Romney and that last weekend he and his wife "drove eight hours to a family wedding in New York and that gave me time to think without being interrupted by the phone."
On Monday evening, Rath, Kasich and a few others met for dinner in Concord, New Hampshire. After ordering, Kasich said: "Are you going to help me?" Rath replied: "Yep."
Rath will serve as senior national adviser and co-chair of Kasich's New Hampshire campaign.
Kasich has been giving extra-special attention to New Hampshire. On July 12, he garnered publicity for attending the 90th birthday party of Ruth Griffin, grand dame of New Hampshire Republican politics, at the Elks Lodge in Portsmouth.
Such prominent Republicans as Sen. Kelly Ayotte, former Sen. Judd Gregg, and Rath himself jammed the event, and as Linda Feldmann reported in the Christian Science Monitor, "the only presidential candidate (aspiring or announced) invited to the party was Kasich, and aside from Mrs. Griffin, he was the main attraction."
According to the latest Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll of likely GOP voters in New Hampshire, Donald Trump leads with 18 percent of the vote, followed by Jeb Bush at 13 percent and Kasich at 12 percent.
"Any polling data here before Halloween has about as much validity as data collected by going table to table at a Friends of the Earth banquet," Rath told us. "New Hampshire voters are historically unpredictable and make up their minds late."
Ovide Lamontagne, two-time GOP nominee for governor, told Newsmax: "Tom is also a former Republican National Committeeman and has been involved in presidential campaigns here for years.
"His endorsement means his reputation and his connections with the national media are now part of the campaign."
Rath told us: "Actually I go back to the fall of 1963, when I was at Dartmouth and volunteered for a fellow Dartmouth man named Nelson Rockefeller."
New York Gov. Rockefeller and eventual nominee Barry Goldwater were both beaten in the 1964 New Hampshire primary by a write-in effort supporting Henry Cabot Lodge, then ambassador to South Vietnam.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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