For over a year, I’ve been pushing the mantra that the outcome of Ohio’s gubernatorial election is dependent upon one thing – the jobs crisis.
There is a caveat, of course. If some unexpected major event or development at the national or state level took place it could change the political dynamic. But seeing as such an event is both unexpected and impossible to predict, it’s of no value to include it in any type of political analysis.
Last November, I had a chance to speak with Peter Brown of Quinnipiac Polling. In our discussion about the Ohio races, he said the following:
Ted Strickland’s chances of turning around the Ohio economy when the rest of the nation’s economy goes like this [points down] is zero. And intellectually, everybody understands that, but that won’t stop them from voting him out.
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.
Pretty simple, eh?
This weekend, a new article from William Hershey reinforced Brown’s point. It highlighted a frustrated Ohio voter that pushed the button for both Strickland in ’06 and Obama in ’08:
Voters like Golden are upset and looking for someone to lash out at. No incumbent is safe from their wrath.
Strickland in 2006 promised to turn around Ohio. He didn’t qualify the pledge by adding — “except if the economy tanks.” He gets no sympathy from Golden.
“They get up there. They promise this and that. We’re going to get jobs in Dayton, Ohio,” she said. “Where are they?”
NCR went to Georgia, she added.
“We lost all of our people here for GM in Moraine,” Golden said.
Golden said she doesn’t know much about Kasich and wants to look over the whole roster of candidates for governor before deciding whom to back this time.
“I know it won’t be Strickland,” she said.
And this is the problem I’ve seen for the Governor in poll after poll for months. While the toplines have remained close, the inherent frustration in the electorate was undeniable.
They haven’t been happy with the direction in which Ohio is going. They are very unhappy with the handling of the economy. And they disapprove of Strickland. They realllllyyy disapprove of Strickland.
And it’s not just Republicans and Independents that feel that way. In poll after poll we’ve seen an unusually high number of Democrats that don’t approve of their own Governor. In their latest polls, Rasmussen had Dem approval of Strickland at 72% (among likely voters), PPP had it at 61% (among registered voters), and Quinnipiac had it at 66% (among registered voters).
After four years, having 1/3 of your own base failing to approve of you means there are serious problems. Not only do you have to turn their opinions around, but you also have to inspire them enough to actually get out and vote. With less than 100 days until election day, that’s a tall order.
Strickland’s campaign seems to think demonizing John Kasich will save this election for the Governor.
Surely, repeated attacks will damage the Republican candidate. Spending millions on attacks and making speech after speech about him will do that.
But for Strickland to have a chance, the Governor’s campaign needs far more than just 50%+1 having an unfavorable opinion of Kasich – they need massive and sweeping disapproval. After all, this is still a referendum on Ted Strickland. Voters may not like John Kasich, but unless they have a vastly improved perception of the Governor, they will be willing to give just about anyone a chance. That’s the challenge of incumbency.
And as of right now, Strickland’s approval number is going in the wrong direction.
His latest favorables in Rasmussen stand at 49-31. 28-19 in Quinnipiac. And 28-30 in PPP. Not exactly “massive and sweeping disapproval”, eh?
Those numbers improved from the last Rasmussen poll. And got slightly worse in Quinnipiac and PPP.
That said, it’s important to note the duration between the two sets of poll data included two months of Strickland/DGA/Union ads attacking Kasich and vastly outspending the RGA and Kasich. In other words, Kasich’s negatives darn well should have spiked.
But they didn’t.
I’ve said it time and time again, when Strickland started the ad war, he needed to find a way to improve his numbers while damaging Kasich. That isn’t happening. Instead, Strickland is digging himself ever deeper into a hole.
But with this jobs crisis, how can Strickland possibly climb out of that hole?