Some have named Presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, as the new Jeb Bush, due to his recent endorsement by former Bush family supporter Tom Rath, but some New Hampshire political insiders say being endorsed by Rath isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Rath has been named senior national adviser and co-chair of Kasich's New Hampshire campaign. According to his biography on rathlaw.com, Rath is a former New Hampshire GOP Committeeman and state Attorney General. He backed Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012, and served as national advisor to the presidential campaign of President George W. Bush.
Andrew Hemingway, a New Hampshire 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate told the American Media Institute, “I think we’d have to go back to quite a while to figure out when the last candidate Rath supported won. Rath does not endorse because he believes in someone, but because something is going on behind the scenes, this is just business.”
Kasich’s campaign did not return emails from the American Media Institute seeking comment.
Hemingway said Rath is a New Hampshire figure who gets behind top candidates. “Rath is part of the New Hampshire establishment. That said, if Kasich is the new Jeb Bush then I anticipate the same impact that Jeb has had to date—zero. There’s been no excitement, no endorsements.”
Hemingway did say he considers Kasich’s rise to become a big problem for Bush. “This could open the door from Trump,” he said. “I expect the Kasich-Bush war to ensure any moment.”
In turn, Hemingway expects to see Bush “unleash” on Kasich soon.
Hemingway added the only thing that’s surprised him is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker isn’t in the mix. “Walker isn’t gaining traction in the base; the Midwestern governors don’t stand a chance.”
Bob Burns, chair of the New Hampshire Young Republicans, said the Rath endorsement isn’t a matter of Rath rejecting Bush but, rather, Bush rejecting Rath.
“I think it’s the Bush family who don’t want anything to do with Rath and I don’t see why they would,” Burns said. I don’t know if Kasich is the new Bush but I would take being called that a compliment.”
Burns acknowledged Kasich has a decent record and thinks he’ll be a strong candidate. “The smart thing to do is to surround yourself with a Rath, but it can bring some baggage. His endorsements are meaningless to New Hampshire voters; he’s a lawyer, a lobbyist who is just out for himself and the voters couldn’t care less about who he endorses.”
As to how the endorsement came about Burns postulated Rath probably reached out to Bush first and may have been subbed. “My guess would be Kasich went to Rath and got the endorsement. It’s not the endorsement per se that’s the story but rather it will cause Bush to step up his campaign and they’ll target Kasich. He’s Bush’s main competition; they’re both well-known governors from swing states.”