GULFPORT -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich clearly doesn't expect to draw a Donald Trump-sized crowd when he comes to Gulfport next week, but his campaign says he is building momentum.
By the time Kasich takes the stage at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Cafe Climb -- a venue that holds several hundred compared with the thousands who saw Trump in Biloxi in early January -- he'll know how much of a bump he received from his second-place finish in New Hampshire. Trump beat Kasich by almost 20 percent in New Hampshire and the front-runner leads the field by a similar margin heading into Saturday's South Carolina vote.
Kasich is battling for fourth there in the latest polls, which have Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio finishing second and third to Trump.
"We've been pressing hard to have the governor in (Mississippi) and we're delighted he's going to be here," said Andy Taggart, state chairman for the Kasich campaign. "We know Gov. Kasich has gotten the nation's attention the last two weeks after being largely unknown to most voters. He came out of New Hampshire primary so strongly that he is the focus of a lot of attention and a lot of people are interested in him."
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Kasich already has considerable support among South Mississippi Republicans, Taggart said. Harrison County GOP Chairman Frank Genzer is the head of Kasich 4th District campaign. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes and state Sen. Brice Wiggins are on the leadership team.
"A lot of Republicans across the state of Mississippi are interested in nominating a candidate who has executive experience and electability in November," Taggart said. "And a lot of people are still on the fence . And I think after visiting face to face with John Kasich, it will be an easy choice for those folks."
Kasich also will visit Louisiana, where the primary is March 5. That is just days after the so-called March 1 SEC Primary, which many expected to further winnow the GOP field.
Mississippians will vote March 8.
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