PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- As he weighs whether to launch a 2016 presidential campaign that could potentially upend the Republican race in New Hampshire, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Thursday suggested he senses weakness in former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's White House bid.
"I didn't think I was going to be back up here again because frankly, I thought Jeb was just going to suck all the air out of the room, and it just hasn't happened," Kasich said during a meeting with local business leaders and Republican activists. "No hit on Jeb. No hit on you, Jeb!"
A former U.S. congressman and House Budget Committee chairman whose brief run for the presidency in 1999 never managed to get off the ground, Kasich won a landslide re-election victory last year and could offer another GOP establishment-friendly alternative to Bush.
Throughout his remarks Thursday, Kasich conveyed the kind of frank and unguarded disposition that tends to play well in New Hampshire, sounding as if he was leaning toward entering the race.
"What do I have that makes me unique? I have national security experience, experience in Washington and as an executive," he said. "If you think that somebody can get elected president and go down to Washington and change that city without understanding how it works, it will not happen."
During the question and answer portion of the event, Kasich demonstrated a different approach to challenging Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton than the one thus far favored by much of the Republican field.
Asked by a man who identified himself as a retired physician whether Congress should investigate "associations" between Hillary Clinton's actions as secretary of state and the Clinton Global Initiative, Kasich at first said that if there are any conflicts, they should "be looked at."
But as he was about to pivot to the next member of the audience, Kasich decided to take his answer in an entirely different direction.
"We are not going to beat Hillary Clinton on the basis of Benghazi and emails and the Clinton Foundation," he said. "You know how you win? You better have a bigger vision as to how Americans feel -- that America's going to be better -- and how they're going to play a role in it and how the American dream's gone dead. You will not beat these people by getting into this nit and nat."
Kasich -- who has former Sen. John E. Sununu spearheading his New Hampshire effort -- said he is in the process of determining whether he would have the financial resources required to mount a viable campaign.
He told reporters that he had a meeting scheduled later in the day with Sununu's father, former Gov. John H. Sununu.
The former governor, who retains significant influence in New Hampshire Republican politics, has met with several other 2016 contenders and his backing is among the most coveted in the state.
Sununu has said he will probably endorse a governor or former governor for president.