Kasich Qualifies for Main GOP Presidential Debate

by | January 12, 2016 AT 12:01 PM

By Darrel Rowland

Bolstered by second-place ties in two New Hampshire polls released today, Ohio Gov. John Kasich qualified for the prime-time segment of Thursday's GOP presidential debate.

The double-dose of good news for Kasich was sparked by his best performances yet in surveys of the state holding the nation's first presidential primary Feb. 9.

He is tied in the American Research Poll at 14 percent with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio behind billionaire Donald Trump's 25 percent.

And in the Monmouth University Poll, Kasich also is at 14 percent but tied with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas behind Trump's 32 percent.

The high finishes solidified Kasich's average from the five most recent New Hampshire polls accepted by Fox News in the top five, which was one of three ways a candidate could qualify for the 9 p.m. matchup. Kasich fell well short in the other two: national or Iowa polls.

"We have momentum and it's happening at just the right time before the Feb. 9 primary," he said in a fundraising solicitation minutes after the debate lineup became official.

The prime-time debate will feature six others along with Kasich: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, retired Dr. Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Relegated to the 6 p.m. undercard: Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky -- who apparently will boycott since he didn't make the main stage for the first time -- former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore did not even qualify for the early debate, which required getting at least 1 percent in the latest five national polls.

Fox counted only polls "conducted by major nationally and state-recognized organizations that use standard methodological techniques (i.e., live interviewers, random digit-dial sampling techniques and include both landlines and cell phones)."

With many conceding New Hampshire to Trump -- although some experts still want to see if his poll supporters will actually show up to cast a vote -- the focus of the battle has shifted to the fight to represent so-called establishment Republicans among Kasich, Rubio, Bush and Christie. Polls at this stage of the campaign are typically volatile, and likely will undergo more changes after the Feb. 1 caucuses in Iowa, where Kasich was getting just 2 percent in a poll unveiled Monday.

Meanwhile, the super-PAC backing Kasich, New Day for America, released a study it commissioned and funded saying that Trump's immigration plan, including a wall on the Mexican border and deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, would cost up to $935 billion over two decades. The "independent" study was conducted by Mark McIntosh, former official with President George W. Bush, and Steven Bogden, who worked for the presidential campaign of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

The study said Trump's proposals would result in a hit of at least 5.7 percent on the U.S. economically, which translates into a drop of $1.6 trillion.

Connie Wehrkamp, spokeswoman for the super-PAC, said it made no attempt to calculate the cost of Kasich's proposal, which also includes a wall or stronger border protection. The governor opposes the deportation of the undocumented immigrants.

The group also launched a digital ad showing Christie explaining his backing for an assault weapons ban and his support for some gun control measures in recent interviews and one from 2009. The piece says Christie is "wrong on guns" and "wrong for New Hampshire." The ad doesn't say that Kasich also supported an assault weapons ban while in Congress but, like Christie, has changed his mind since.

A group of more than three dozen Ohio conservatives announced their support for Cruz, including Phil Burress of Citizens for Community Values, the group that successfully pushed the 2004 state constitutional amending defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman that was struck down by last year's Supreme Court gay marriage ruling.

Lori Viars of the Conservative Republican Leadership Committee said in a release: "Ted Cruz doesn't just talk our talk. He walks our walk, on both social and fiscal issues."

(c)2016 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)