By Emily Stephenson and Amanda Becker
US Republican presidential candidate John Kasich is polling in the low single digits nationally but may be poised to play the role of spoiler in the New Hampshire primary by cutting into the support of higher-profile rivals such as Marco Rubio.
The Ohio governor, who is vowing to erase the US budget deficit without shredding the safety net for poor Americans, has built a base of support among moderate Republicans and independent voters, who wield special clout in New Hampshire because they can vote in either party's primary.
Kasich, 63, has the support of about 12 to 14 percent of New Hampshire's voters in recent polls. The former congressman has staked the viability of his White House aspirations on New Hampshire, whose pivotal primary on Tuesday is part of the state-by-state contests to pick the party nominees for the November 8 election to replace Democratic President Barack Obama.
While well behind billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, Kasich's poll numbers are close to those of Rubio, a US senator from Florida who is seeking to build on his momentum after a third-place finish in last Monday's Iowa caucuses behind Trump and winner Ted Cruz, a US senator from Texas.
"I found great clarity here in New Hampshire," Kasich said on Sunday in Concord.
"These town halls, you know, they're getting bigger and I don't know how I feel about them getting bigger."
The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll put Kasich's support nationally at 3.4 percent.
But among New Hampshire voters, a Monmouth University poll released on Sunday found Kasich at 14 percent, compared with 30 percent for Trump and 13 percent for Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.