- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 1, 2015

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said Tuesday that his visit to Tennessee is aimed at avoiding having to scramble for support in the state’s March 1 primary if he emerges as a strong contender from the earliest contests.

The Ohio governor made fundraising stops in Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, and said he was signing up supporters in anticipation of strong showing in New Hampshire.

“My focus is really on raising the money and getting the grassroots people that I can get, so that if we are able to get here, we won’t be going from a standing start,” he said.

Kasich’s Tennessee team is led by Brad Martin, the former chairman of Saks Inc. and onetime chairman of the state Republican Party. Other supporters include businessman Scooter Clippard, who served as finance chair to the late Fred Thompson’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Bryan Kaegi, a prominent fundraiser for Tennessee Republicans like Sen. Lamar Alexander and Gov. Bill Haslam.

Kasich has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump, who has drawn thousands of supporters to campaign rallies in Knoxville, Nashville and Franklin this year.

“This is all about having a uniter and not a divider,” Kasich said. “The last thing we need is somebody who’s attacking women, attacking Hispanics, attacking Muslims, making fun of a reporter who has a disability. This is not helpful to building a strong country.”

Meanwhile, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign announced it has signed up eight state lawmakers as delegates to represent the candidate at the Republican National Convention next year.

Former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp is the chairman of Rubio’s effort that has also drawn the support of state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and fellow state Reps. Jeremy Faison, Eddie Smith, Dan Howell and Ron Travis. State Sens. Brian Kelsey, Jacks Johnson and Becky Massey have also signed on to Rubio effort.

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