Let’s get the least well liked number out of the way first. In the latest Quinnipiac Poll of registered Ohio voters, Gov. Ted Strickland leads John Kasich 44-39.
And at the end of the day, what the topline reads is what matters.
But this isn’t the end of the day.
In fact, we’re 252 days from the end of the day.
So what is most informative is how the electorate is positioned for 11.2.10. And that is virtually all good news for John Kasich.
So let’s get to it…
This is John Kasich’s biggest challenge. According to Quinnipiac, 62% of Ohioans don’t know enough about John Kasich to have an opinion. While this has improved from the 69% in the last Q poll in November, it still highlights the most important distinction between Quinnipiac and Rasmussen – who they are polling.
Rasmussen’s polling focuses only on Likely Voters. Quinnipiac focuses on Registered Voters.
So while 62% of Q’s voters don’t have an opinion of Kasich, that number goes all the way down to 22% in Rasmussen – thus, the 11 point swing between polls.
But among the voters who do have an opinion, what has happened to Kasich’s approval rating since the last Q poll in November? With the left wing assault on Kasich, you’d expect his disapproval numbers to have exponentially risen.
They haven’t. Kasich’s approval to disapproval ratio still stands at 2.5 to 1. Among Independents, his approval numbers have increased more than his disapproval numbers.
This is the big one. With all re-election campaigns being first and foremost a referendum on the incumbent, these questions help shape how Ohioans will vote come November.
In general, how satisfied are you with the way things are going in Ohio today?
Do you think that Ted Strickland has kept his campaign promises so far or not?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Ted Strickland is handling the economy?
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Ted Strickland is handling the state budget?
On every single question, dissatisfaction and disapproval of Governor Strickland worsened from the last Quinnipiac poll last November.
And on the number one issue on everyone’s mind, who would do a better job rebuilding Ohio’s economy – Ted Strickland or John Kasich – Kasich is up 6.
Who would do a better job managing Ohio’s budget? Kasich is also up 6. In conjunction with Rasmussen, this is the second poll in a row that confirms the Democrat attack vs. Kasich on taxes/budget issues doesn’t resonate.
With 52% of Ohioans disapproving of the President, 57% disapproving of his job on the economy, and 58% disapproving of his job on health care, one thing is clear – Obama isn’t going to be helping Ted anytime soon.
One frustration I have with Quinnipiac is that there is no way to measure voter enthusiasm. For example, a candidate’s “strong approval” is far different from “approval” in general. Rasmussen and the Ohio news poll highlighted an enthusiasm gap with Strickland that we don’t have see measured in Quinnipiac. Voter enthusiasm = GOTV, and all signs from other polls indicate it being a major challenge for Strickland in November.
But with all these numbers siding towards Kasich, why do registered voters still prefer Ted Strickland? Simple. If voters don’t know the incumbent’s opponent, they feel less comfortable voicing their support. Need evidence? Look at the Rasmussen numbers that consistently show Kasich ahead in a sample that includes voters that actually know who he is.
It’s also clear that the massive Democrat efforts to define Kasich first have so far failed. Additionally, Strickland and the ODP have failed at improving Strickland’s reputation as a manager of Ohio’s economy and its budget.
Expectedly, Kasich still has a long way to go. In order to take advantage of Ohio’s nasty feelings towards its Governor, Kasich needs to improve his name ID and define himself as the viable alternative. The question then becomes, when should Kasich start spending the gobs of money necessary to communicate that message? I’m not so sure 252 days out from election day is the smartest way to spend those dollars.
Ultimately, there is little evidence that the one thing that can help Strickland’s chances, a substantively improved economy, will happen over the next few months. But what can change is voter understanding of John Kasich, his record, and what he can do for Ohio.
And how that pans out will determine who wins on 11.2.10.