The “real” John Kasich, a combative, dismissive, intemperate, arrogant, self-centered and ambitious candidate for higher office,  stepped forward last Monday and confronted the leading Republican candidate, Donald J. Trump,   finally vacating the facade of reasonableness he’s spent weeks hiding behind.

Bare Knuckles Kasich

Camp Kasich, with all its minions in full campaign mode, has launched a campaign to take down The Donald, who continues to lead, by wide margins in national and state polls. Gov. Kasich, running for cover from his second term, is stuck at 2-3 percent in reliable polling. Mr. Trump mocked Gov. Kasich’s poor performance shortly after he took the stage at his first rally in Columbus, within sight of Castle Kasich.

Everyone who knows how John Kasich works in the political arena are probably surprised that he’s waited this long to go negative on Trump. Kasich is at his best when the deck is stacked in his favor. But when it isn’t, basic Kasich is to work his magic through friends and subordinates loyal to his loyalty to them. And that was the case Monday, as Camp Kasich assembled a platoon of GOP backers, some from the Ohio legislature and others from Ohio’s congressional delegation in Washington.

Is Donald Trump John Kasich’s Next Charlie Earl?

How the Ohio governor works was made very plain last year, when the governor running for a second term watched as insider political operatives hatched a plot to eliminate a candidate for governor who represented the Libertarian Party of Ohio, Charlie Earl. Earl didn’t make it to the ballot after so-called self-starting friends of the governor kept Earl off the primary ballot so Mr. Kasich could run up the score on Election Day. In the lowest turnout election since World War II, Gov. Kasich won by a big margin, 2-1, over his beleaguered Democratic opponent. But while the margin of victory is a favorite statistics for Kasich-friendly backers to talk about, the reality of his win is that fewer than one in four registered voters voted for him.

Basic Kasich is back in play in New Hampshire, the state most political watchers say the governor needs to win if he has any chance to go further from there. If he should come in lower than third place, that is widely seen as an early trip to a cold shower, which could end John Kasich’s quest to be leader of the free world. Having spent millions so far to introduce himself to virgin voters who might find his sweet song of being a united not a divider attractive, Gov. Kasich finds himself being out paced by some of his GOP challengers, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in particular.

Even in Ohio, where he and his Republican brothers control the state from top to bottom, he’s trailing both Trump and Dr. Ben Carson, based on a Quinnipiac Poll taken a month ago. In that poll, Kasich comes in with 13 percent compared to Trump at 23 percent and Carson at 18 percent.

Gov. Kasich has a long history of trying to advance by getting those ahead of him out of the race. What he did to Charlie Earl last year is coming around again for Trump in New Hampshire. Reports from The Boston Globe say that the pro-Kasich super PAC “New Day for America” hopes Fergus Cullen, a top GOP activist in New Hampshire, can successfully challenge Donald Trump’s ballot status there.

In a six-page letter to the Ballot Law Commission, “Cullen argued Trump did not provide proof he is a Republican and should be required to do so ‘because his views expressed over decades, are inconsistent with the Republican Party Platform and the Republican Party of New Hampshire’s statement of principles and bylaws.'”

For a look-see into how Gov. Kasich and his associates like to work in the shadows, the case before a Franklin County today, that seeks to reengage the Ohio Elections Commission that helped Mr. Kasich dodge a political bullet when it voted 5-2 to dismiss a challenge brought by the LPO that Camp Kasich violated state campaign finance law when it derailed Charlie Earl from competing against him last year, is a perfect case example of the length Camp Kasich will go to keep their candidate from being sullied or roughed up by any possible challenger, great or small.

While some Ohio reporters thought Camp Kasich got the best of Mr. Trump Monday, others thought Kasich’s plan to take out the popular outsider showed just how desperate he’s become with the clocking ticking down to voting starting in early February.