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John Kasich on challenging Trump: 'I'm not gonna sit there and be a marshmallow'

Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke to TODAY after coming in second in the New Hampshire Republican primary.
/ Source: TODAY

After finishing a surprising second to Donald Trump in Tuesday's Republican primary in New Hampshire, Gov. John Kasich feels his campaign emphasizing the positive can stand up to Trump's attacks on his closest rivals.

"Somebody wants to mess with me, they're messing with the wrong guy,'' Kasich told Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. "I'm not gonna sit there and be a marshmallow and have somebody pound me. We're not just gonna sit back and take a pounding from anybody, but at the same time we're going to tell people what we're for, and I think people really, really like it."

Kasich stunned some pundits by taking second with 15.9 percent of the vote behind Trump. NBC News reports Trump earned 35.1 percent of the votes in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

"I don't think it was the faltering (of other candidates),'' Kasich said about his second-place showing. "We were on our way up anyway. Secondly, I had a very positive message. As you know, I was the only one with a really positive message. I always felt that the light could overcome the darkness in a political campaign where we can say what we're for — bringing families together, creating jobs, making sure that no one gets left behind."

The Ohio governor said he was "gratified" after finishing ahead of Iowa caucus winner Ted Cruz (11.6%) as well as Jeb Bush (11.1%) and Marco Rubio (10.6%). His strategy of spending more time campaigning in New Hampshire than almost any other Republican candidate paid off with his strong showing.

"Maybe, maybe just maybe, at a time when clearly change is in the air, maybe just maybe we're turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigning and you made it happen," Kasich said Tuesday in his primary night speech. "There's so much going to happen, if you don't have a seat belt, go get one, we're going to shape this country from top to bottom."

Kasich believes Tuesday night's results are an indication of what is to come in his campaign.

"As some peoplee have said, and in fact my two daughters said, 'Daddy we think you won because we're not so sure Mr. Trump will last,''' he said. "We'll see what happens. It's a long, long road to the nomination."

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.