Breaking it Down: The 2/9 Ohio Gubernatorial Poll

DJ Note: This post can also be seen at Race42012.com

Since the January 12th Rasmussen poll showing presumptive GOP nominee John Kasich up seven points, four major events have happened in the Ohio gubernatorial race.

  1. Kasich announced Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor as his running mate.
  2. Ted Strickland announced his campaign for re-election and his choice of former County Judge Yvette McGee Brown as his running “partner”.
  3. Ted Strickland gave his State of the State speech.
  4. Ohio Democrats unveiled their first major coordinated attack against John Kasich.

As you can imagine, three of those four should have had a positive net effect on Governor Ted Strickland’s numbers.

The reality says otherwise as the new numbers from Rasmussen released this morning show Kasich dropping a statistically insignificant point, and still leading outside the margin of error 47-41.

Most interesting of the four listed above is the last one; the coordinated attack from Ohio Dems designed to preemptively define Kasich. Headlines from newspapers across Ohio over the past two weeks included the following:

  • “Pry calls Kasich tax plan devastating”
  • “Democrats oppose Kasich income tax plan”
  • “McNally Blasts Kasich Tax Cut Plan”
  • “Treasurer rips Kasich goal of tax phase-out”

These headlines were the result of the 2010 Ohio gubernatorial campaign’s first aggressive attack – in this case, an impressively coordinated effort by the Strickland campaign to have local Democratic leaders across the state host press conferences with the intent to define Kasich as extreme and irresponsible. It yielded substantive earned media and provided the Democrats the exact headlines they were looking for in newspapers from Toledo to Portsmouth.

And it failed.

How do we know? Kasich’s total favorable number among likely voters one month ago was 47. And today? 47.

Totally and completely unchanged.

What did change? The number of Independents who have a “very favorable” opinion of Kasich – going from from 18 to 26.

It’s particularly amazing that these numbers didn’t drop when considering the Kasich campaign never took the bait and counterpunched these claims. But a number released in Rasmussen’s Ohio Senate poll yesterday may explain why the Kasich campaign was happy to sit back and take a few jabs – when Ohioans were asked whether they believe tax cuts or more federal spending is a better way to create jobs, tax cuts were preferred 54-17.

Now take into consideration that Ohio Democrats just went on a massive media push to inform voters that John Kasich will cut their taxes (admittedly, it was framed in a way designed to be highly negative). On top of that, Strickland has repeatedly stated in the Ohio media that his efforts to solve Ohio’s jobs crisis rely completely on obtaining more federal stimulus dollars.

With a strategy like this, it makes you wonder if Governor Strickland even wants to win this election.

Interestingly enough, despite the beneficial coverage of the past few weeks, it was Ted Strickland’s approval ratings that suffered. For the first time, his overall favorable number jumped over the 50% mark. Even among Democrats, those with favorable opinions of the Governor shrunk by 5%.

Ultimately, this poll is far more important than any other we’ve seen to date. Thanks to the timing of the poll, we’ve had our first real test of whether a major Democrat line of attack was successful (it wasn’t), how a State of the State was received (a collective ‘meh’), and how Ohioans reacted to the Governor’s re-election announcement (no one noticed). Even when polls don’t change, they can still tell us quite a bit.

The fact is this, with nothing more than an innovative new media strategy and aggressive grassroots efforts among the activist base, Kasich has found himself consistently ahead. Once the Ohio Republican Party and Kasich campaign begin spending some of the millions of dollars they have on hand, they’ll be able to highlight not only Ted Strickland’s failures in ways never considered by Ohioans, but they’ll be able to highlight John Kasich’s solutions.

This election, like so many others around the country, will be about jobs. Unless Ted Strickland can turn things around, and fast, he will not win on 11.2.10.