"Just maybe we are turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning, and you made it happen," Kasich said in the address's opening moments.
Kasich told the audience that the campaign in New Hampshire had "changed" him, retelling a series of anecdotes about people he met while campaigning in the state. "The people of New Hampshire have taught me a lesson, and from this day forward, I am going to go slower, and spend my time listening, and healing, and helping, and bringing people together to fix our great nation," Kasich said.
Like I said, this was not your average stump speech. It was Kasich in full joyous wonder mode after a finish in New Hampshire that breathed life into a campaign that few thought would escape the state. And, in the room -- and on television -- it worked.
The question going forward is whether the Kasich-as-happy-warrior-and-life-coach can sell to a Republican electorate that is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Yes, Kasich came in second in New Hampshire -- but he finished with 44,909 votes. Donald Trump, the man who has made anger his calling card in the race, took 100,406 votes on Tuesday night.
Kasich's speech was a clear attempt to draw a stark contrast between him and Trump. If Trump's candidacy is purely a matter of political calculation and rhetoric, Kasich used his speech to make an argument that his campaign -- and the race more broadly -- needs to be about something bigger.
"We don't see it as just another campaign; we see this as just another opportunity for all of us -- and I mean all of us -- to be involved in something that's bigger than our own lives," Kasich said. Whether intentionally or not, he echoed the language used so successfully by John McCain during the 2000 and 2008 campaigns.
Whereas Trump casts himself as an uber example of what all of America could be if only it elects him president, Kasich painted a picture on Tuesday night of himself as a sort of empathizer in chief. "There are too many people in America who don't feel connected," he said. "They've got victories that no one celebrates with them, and they have defeats, and pain sometimes, that they have to absorb themselves."
It was a fascinating speech -- particularly at this moment in Republican politics when Trump is, once again, ascendant. Count me as skeptical that Kasich's vision for his campaign and the country can upend the darker view represented by Trump. But, for a night, Kasich's idea of what our politics might be shone brightly.