That was a knock at Kasich's comments, made in September, that the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process should consider whether there's "excess infrastructure" being paid for in the military budget. Kasich, whose campaign has reminded voters that he led the House Budget Committee and was a member of the Armed Services Committee, survived early criticism of that position. Graham intended to resurrect it.
"We have a lot of military infrastructure in South Carolina, and our bases have been put at risk by a declining defense budget," said Graham, who endorsed Bush for president at an event in North Charleston last month. "A candidate who says another round of BRAC would be a good thing is probably out of step with South Carolina."
If Kasich scores surprisingly high in New Hampshire, his path forward might resemble the one a New Hampshire primary winner used to become a runner-up, then a nominee. In 2000 and 2008, Graham endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- who has remained neutral in 2016 since Graham's campaign ended -- and helped turn momentum from New Hampshire to competitive races in the first southern primary. Graham was highly skeptical that Kasich could copy that.
"Generally, the infrastructure John has in South Carolina has been small to begin with," said Graham. "You add to that his expansion of Medicaid in Ohio. I sort of think that's fool's gold, in the sense that the Medicaid spending we have today isn't even sustainable. That would make John an outlier in Republican politics down here."
To date, Kasich has spent just 16 days campaigning in South Carolina, the least of any remaining presidential candidate save Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.). New Day for America, the pro-Kasich super PAC, has already put down a six-figure ad buy in the state, but a Tuesday update on its work included a number of bank shots, such as a "majority-minority project" to win Kasich delegates in South Carolina's most Democratic district.