• Paul Steinhauser

On the Trail: Kasich’s 2nd N.H. visit this year adds fuel to the presidential fire

Former Republican presidential candidate Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, endorses Chris Sununu, right, for New Hampshire's governor during a news conference Monday, Aug. 29, 2016, in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

With the 2018 midterm elections now over, the 2020 White House race official gets underway in New Hampshire and the other early primary and caucus states.

While we could eventually see a Democratic presidential nomination field of over 20 candidates, the first potential White House contender to visit the state that for a century has held the first presidential primary will most likely be a Republican.

That person is Ohio Gov. John Kasich – unless another possible candidate makes an unscheduled stop in New Hampshire before next Thursday.

The term-limited GOP governor, who’s finishing up his eighth and final year steering Ohio, will headline the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications 16th annual First Amendment Awards gala on Nov. 15. The dinner honors Granite State residents and organizations that work to protect free speech and free press.

The trip is sparking more speculation that Kasich, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who finished second to Donald Trump in the New Hampshire primary, is seriously considering challenging the President for the party’s 2020 nomination.

From the looks of it, Kasich won’t have much idle time. The governor will sit down for media interviews and will hold a series of meetings with 2016 supporters and other Granite State Republicans in the hours leading up to the awards dinner in Manchester.

“The governor will meet with some old friends and possibly make some new friends,” said Bruce Burke, a longtime Kasich friend who served as an adviser to the Ohio governor’s campaign in New Hampshire.

While he’s not running for anything at the point, Kasich made lots of friends and built up assets in New Hampshire during his 2016 White House run and it appears he wants to keep them viable.

Next week’s visit will be the Ohio governor’s second to the Granite State this year. Kasich told the Monitor in the spring that “all my options are on the table.”

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