GLASTONBURY ― John Kasich may be mathematically eliminated from winning the Republican nomination for president on the first ballot at the convention, but his campaign is running on optimism to the finish line.
That optimistic streak brought Kasich to Glastonbury Friday night for his second campaign event in Connecticut, where about 1,500 people turned out to hear the Ohio governor speak before Tuesday’s primary.
The standing room-only crowd filled the Glastonbury High School gymnasium. After a series of introductory speeches, Kasich danced onto stage as Walk The Moon’s hit single “Shut Up and Dance” played through the sound system.
He brought his usual message of job creation to a state plagued by slow economic growth. His optimism carried from the start of his speech through the end of questions during the town hall.
“We can fix all of this,” Kasich said. “Our country is unbelievably great.”
Kasich said overcoming the economic challenges starts by recognizing everybody’s individual gifts. He acknowledged the small business owners, teachers and nurses in the audience, saying they have a significant impact on the lives of people when they put their gifts into use.
Electability, however, is the argument that drew the loudest applause from the crowd. Kasich cited recent polling that showed him ahead of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in hypothetical general election match-ups while Donald Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, his opponents, both trailed.
Despite not having enough delegates to win the nomination outright at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Kasich said, this makes him the most electable in the Republican field.
“We’re hunting delegates,” Kasich said. “Regardless of what these other two people have to say, when you win 15 separate polls over Hillary and they lose 15 separate polls, that would be a big consideration when we get to Cleveland.”
Winning delegates in Connecticut will not be an easy task, as Donald Trump holds a sizable lead in recent polling. The state’s 28 delegates will be allocated in three ways, with 10 awarded based on the statewide results and 15 awarded by congressional-district winner. The remaining three are not bound by RNC rules to vote for any specific candidate based on the results.
Each congressional district will allocate three delegates.
Andrew Swick, who is running Kasich’s Connecticut headquarters in Fairfield, said the campaign has “teams all across the state,” but said they are targeting southwestern Connecticut as a key battleground region.
“We hitting Fairfield hard, we’re hitting Stamford hard, Greenwich hard,” Swick said. “Most Republicans are in the 4th (District), so we’re hitting the 4th.”
State Sen. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, said he thinks Kasich will be competitive in the 4th District, adding that the campaign headquarters in Fairfield has been open for almost a month. He said the grassroots organization in the district is ready to have an “impact.”
In addition to the 4th District, Hwang said Kasich should be competitive in the 2nd District and 5th District as well.
But even some of Kasich’s strongest advocates have cast doubts on his ability to win delegates in the 4th District. Former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays, who represented the 4th District in Congress for 22 years, said his former district will be determined by “who bothers to come out and vote.”
When asked if Kasich could win the 4th District, Shays paused before answering the question.
“Do I think he should do it? Yes. Do I think he needs do it? Absolutely. But in a primary, you never know who comes out to vote,” Shays said. “But I do believe he is totally in line with most people in the 4th Congressional District, including Republicans.”
Shays said regardless of Tuesday’s result, Kasich would win Connecticut if “everybody came out to vote.”
A Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday found Trump leading among Connecticut Republicans with 48 percent of the vote to Kasich’s 28 percent. Cruz trailed in third place with 19 percent. Five percent remained undecided, but 25 percent of those already committed said they could change their minds before voting.