Mark Chiusano is a member of the Newsday and amNew York editorial board.
MANCHESTER, N.H. - It wasn't reality television. The first votes toward the 2016 presidential election have been cast and Iowa lifted Sen. Ted Cruz over Donald Trump in the first step to the GOP nomination.
The anti-establishment trend, if not The Donald's winning record, is real — Sen. Bernie Sanders also fought Hillary Clinton to a tight finish.
It's left to the rest to live with the results and adjust or double down on their strategies — and, of course, head to New Hampshire.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich was nowhere near the top in Iowa, but then again, he's hardly campaigned there.
Instead, Kasich has staked his claim in New Hampshire, where he's hoping that a win in the-first-in-the-nation primary will translate into momentum as the truly mainstream Republican who can win in November.
New Yorkers might think of Kasich as that guy at the debates who seemed reasonable enough, at least compared to the rightward shift going around him.
But many New Hampshire voters know him more personally: Today, he'll hold his 90th town hall in the state, his campaign says.
While recent polls have him trailing Trump in New Hampshire by a significant margin, he's in the thick of it here with Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Attack ads between this scrum of second-place contenders have increased, including one from a super PAC supporting Kasich that attacked Rubio. Kasich's campaign expressed its disapproval over the ad, and it came down--a sign of the positive, less-confrontational attitude the campaign thinks might resonate as an alternative in this Time of Trump.
At an American Legion post in Rochester, New Hampshire — town hall number 87 — Kasich stood in front of his favored prop a national debt counter (upward and upward, naturally) and took questions from supporters, some of whom were worried about the governor getting enough attention to outshine his rivals.
"We've cast our lot here and it's important that we do well here," Kasich said, noting that if "we do well here, we'll be fine."
Of course, at some point he'll have to win.
But for now, New Hampshire's culture of intimate politics has allowed Kasich to "share his vision for the country one on one," says Scott Blake, a regional political director for the Kasich campaign.
Blake says the campaign has 15 full-time staff in the state and volunteers have 4,000 days of work.
Courting voters, one door at a time
"Second touches" — or multiple contact between a voter and a volunteer — will be crucial to Kasich's momentum in the Granite State, Blake says. With less organizational strength in other states, Kasich will have to finish a strong second in New Hampshire to be considered a viable alternative to Trump or Cruz.
As Iowa prepared to caucus, Kasich was the lone candidate touring the state. And volunteers were making the "effective-conservative" Kasich pitch door to door.
Carl Reid and Ashley Zabriskie, both 21, consulted a smartphone app that directed them to particular houses — mostly "moderates and undecided" at this point, Reid says — and prompted them to fill in information after each door. Towards the end of a workday, on mostly empty residential streets, they weren't having much luck.
"Is there a side door?" Reid asks. "They say to try the side door because that's what people use." Knocks elicited no response.
Some people close their blinds when they see the pair coming, they say. Sometimes the residents don't speak English. Reid, whose father is from Costa Rica, speaks Spanish, and says he's used it in some cases.
Retail politics is important here, Reid says, though not everyone is receptive.
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