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Kasich ‘not too hot, or too cold’ at his first New Hampshire town hall

Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich speaks at a town hall style meeting Tuesday, July 21, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)

NASHUA, New Hampshire -- Ohio Governor John Kasich announced his intentions to run for president of the United States, grabbed a plane in Ohio, went to a town hall in Nashua, N.H., and talked about the perfect temperature to serve gruel.

“I think the porridge [needs to be] the right temperature, not too hot and not too cold,” he told the crowd of a couple hundred New Hampshire voters. He was talking about trying to strike the right balance between maintaining civil liberties and protecting the country. But he could have been talking about his path to the White House.

He’s a conservative, but a compassionate one. He’s got attitude but maybe not as much as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. He’s establishment, but not part of a dynasty like former Florida governor Jeb Bush. And he says he can agree with Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) about some concerns with Patriot Act, but knows there are grave threats to the country.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced he's running for president. Here are the highlights from his campaign launch. (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

Kasich is one of the many candidates who is betting it all on New Hampshire. His hope is that his tell-it-like-it-is style, his mix of fiscal conservatism and moderate social stances, and his executive experience will play well in the first primary state.

The only problem is that he’s not the only person here.

Paul, Bush, and Christie are making the state a centerpiece to their campaign strategy (Paul, Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker all have events here this week). Carly Fiorina and former Texas governor Rick Perry seem to be here every other day. And with 16 Republicans running, it’s hard to make any noise that breaks through the din. Especially when that din includes the loudest man on the planet, reality television star Donald Trump.

Kasich starts so far down the ladder – polling nationally at about 2 percent — that there’s a chance that he might not even make it onto the stage of the first Republican debate in his home state of Ohio. His three-day swing through New Hampshire is his best chance to get a bump in the ratings, and get on stage. How he starts is crucial to how he finishes.

“When people see John Kasich they will see a normal human being, someone who isn’t captured by the political environment,” said Christopher Shays, a former congressman from Connecticut who served with Kasich. “He’s a true believer, not in the politics of the effort, but in the policy behind the effort.”

Over the course of an hour-long meeting at Rivier University, a Catholic liberal arts school in Nashua, Kasich responded to questions about immigration, climate, the defense budget and campaign finance reform.

"I absolutely share some concern with Rand Paul," Kasich said, applying his Goldilocks approach to porridge and Patriot Act. "If we don't trust the government to do a bunch of things, then why when it comes to government would we trust them 100 percent... On the other hand, as a governor I get briefings from time to time about the threats, we get threats in Ohio, so it's a balance, civil liberties, protection."

In response to a question about illegal immigration, he said, “I do not think we should be demonizing people who are law-abiding hard-working folks."

“And I don’t like the fact that they jumped the line,” he continued, comparing them to people who “jump in front of people” at a Taylor Swift concert.

Here's where Ohio Gov. John Kasich stands on the Iran deal, marriage, health care for the mentally ill and more, in his own words (Video: Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

He said he didn’t think a “handful of billionaires” should be able to decide elections, but joked that if he won the presidency he’d be OK with it.

He said that Americans need to be “good stewards” of the environment, but not “worship” the earth.

“What I would not do is throw a bunch of people out of work,” he said noting that the “science is not perfect, it’s questionable.”

“Hey by the way, how am I doing?” Kasich said at one point in the town hall. “Ok? You enjoying this.” For the most part they were, but if you have to ask….

And while the town hall didn't offer many fireworks, it doesn't mean he didn't give Democrats something to jump on.

Shortly after the speech, the Democratic National Committee sent out a statement that highlighted this quote from Kasich: “I learned a lot about the way America works when I worked at Lehman Brothers.”

“The last thing we need in a president is the Lehman Brothers approach to America," the statement added. "Kasich said he learned how America works from a Wall Street firm integral to the crash that led to almost 9 million people out of work? That’s rich.”

The Post's Dan Balz shares his Snapchats from the presidential campaign launch for Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). (Video: Dan Balz/The Washington Post)
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