That’s the topline of the new poll from Rasmussen gauging support of John Kasich and Governor Ted Strickland. And that’s what is reported most across the media.
I can’t say I blame them. That’s the sexiest number. And at the end of the day, it’s who is voting for who is that matters.
But as I’ve said many times when discussing polls here on 3BP or with colleagues, this isn’t the end of the day.
The fact is, the most important question being asked of the voters right now is not which candidate they support, it’s this: “do you approve or disapprove of the job Ted Strickland is doing as Governor?”
Why is it so important? Because of what virtually any serious political scientist will tell you – elections that include an incumbent are first and foremost a referendum on that incumbent.
So right now the bad news for Ted Strickland is not specifically what the latest Rasmussen Poll says, it’s what each of Rasmussen’s polls have said.
We now have four polls over the course of the past four months that gauge what likely voters in Ohio think of Governor Strickland. It’s safe to say this is a substantive sample. In each of the polls, no more than 4% of the sample did not know enough to have an opinion. In other words, the overwhelming majority of these likely voters knew enough about Strickland to approve one way or another of his job as Governor.
So, where does Strickland stand? This graph breaks it down for you:
What stands out? First and foremost, it’s his disapproval number among those who don’t identify as Republicans or Democrats, or Independents. It shows a consistent problem for Strickland among the vital swing vote. Now some cynics may want to dismiss these Independents as simply members of the Tea Party in disguise. Well, as we mentioned yesterday, the Ohio Senate Rasmussen poll showed only 13% of those who are a part of this subgroup identify as members of the Tea Party movement. That means these are true swing voters who have a major and consistent problem with Strickland’s job as Governor.
Second, on average 27.5% of Democrats disapprove of his job as Governor. That’s over 1/4 of Ohio’s likely Democrat voters who don’t like how their Democrat Governor is doing his job. Anyone who doesn’t think that won’t have an effect on Strickland’s Get Out the Vote efforts is fooling themselves.
Finally, the overall approval and disapproval of Strickland’s job as Governor has remained relatively stagnant, averaging a poor 45-53. That’s what many would consider “underwater”.
The particularly bad news for Ted Strickland is the consistency of this disapproval. After four months, it highlights an ingrained disapproval among those voters most likely to vote come November.
Remember the quote from Quinnipiac’s Peter Brown that I’ve discussed several times here on 3BP:
Voters are much less complex than many of us think. They like things. They don’t like things. Most of them don’t focus on specifics. [In 2008,] Barack Obama was the antidote to George W. Bush. In Ohio, John Kasich is the antidote to Ted Strickland.
Well right now Ohio voters do not like Ted Strickland.
It’s hard to imagine anything other than a massive and swift reduction in the unemployment rate that could provide Strickland an opportunity to make this race competitive in November.
And according to a pollster I spoke to at this event, “we both know that’s not going to happen. Ohio is the first in and the last out of recessions. And that’s bad news for Ted Strickland.”