Kasich First 2016 Republican to File in Nevada

Republican presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, waves as he arrives for a campaign stop at Robie's Country Store Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015, in Hooksett,N.H. The nation's first presidential primary in New Hampshire is less than six months away.(AP Photo/Jim Cole)Jim Cole / AP

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By Alexandra Jaffe

Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday became the first Republican presidential contender to file for the Nevada caucus, according to the Nevada Republican Party.

"Electing a Republican to the White House is a priority for Nevada and we are excited to see Governor Kasich and the rest of the Republican field campaign in the Silver State,” said NVGOP Chairman Michael McDonald in a statement.

Nevada is the fourth state to vote in the Republican presidential primary, and the first in the West, but not a clear winner for Kasich. The caucuses require a substantial investment in resources and staff to organize properly, and traditionally favor those candidates with more ardent grassroots support.

Also on Monday, the campaign announced its Georgia leadership team, including endorsements from the state Senate majority leader and a former chief of staff to Gov. Sonny Perdue.

Both moves came with little fanfare, but they’re a signal, Kasich allies said, that the governor is performing better than expected in key early primary states and has room to expand beyond that.

That was the message relayed to Kasich’s Washington steering committee when they met for a briefing in D.C. at the Capitol Hill Club last Friday, attendees said.

Campaign advisers briefed the committee — which counts about 30 lobbyists, current and former members of Congress and other D.C. powerbrokers — on the candidate’s fundraising and support in the states. They held a second meeting for about 20 current and former members of Congress who wanted to learn more about the candidate.

During the first meeting, said James Walsh, a former New York representative and deputy majority whip in the House, “the sentiment was we’re doing better than we thought we’d be doing.” Walsh said the team was pleased with Kasich’s first debate performance, where “we thought he would be good but he was better than we thought.”

Former Sen. John E. Sununu briefed the committee on Kasich’s performance in New Hampshire, the early primary state that’s key to his presidential hopes, and said that “he’s ahead of where we thought he’d be” at this point in the cycle, according to Walsh.

That’s given him the room, another steering committee member said, to expand his focus.

“There was a feeling, early on in the campaign, by some people that he was going to concentrate on New Hampshire, but wouldn’t be able to build out any kind of support in the SEC primary states,” the member said. “But the fact is that we have done quite well” in many of those southern states.

Committee members are now focusing on bringing other current and former elected officials onto the team, and raising money for the next leg of the campaign. They’re planning a major fundraiser in D.C. in early October, and are beginning to work on securing commitments for that.