That's what the latest Ohio Governor Quinnipiac Poll is about.
Are voters enthused about the state of the state and the Governor himself?
This analysis is a bit on the long side, but stay with me - there's a lot of interesting information that gives some great hints on where this race stands.
Let's start at the beginning.
- Kasich and Strickland are tied at 40 percent each.
This tie is a ten point swing in Kasich's favor from just two months ago. I'll take that trend any day.
Independents continue to support Kasich, but not quite by the margin we saw in New Jersey for Christie. With that said, when you look at Indie support for Strickland, the Governor is on par with what Corzine obtained in the last Quinnipiac Poll before the election. Clearly, that's not a positive.
Interestingly enough, in 2006, the last Quinnipiac Poll before the election had Strickland winning nearly double the number of Independents that support him now. This flip in Indie support is a telling blow.
But what really got my attention was the same question when broken down by region. In the September poll, Strickland won central Ohio, Kasich's base, by one point. And now, in the same region, Kasich is up by 18. Why the massive flip? In central Ohio, politics is king. People are more likely to pay attention to the budget fiasco and the rest of Strickland's troubles. Is it possible that frustration with the incumbent reached fever pitch and turned the tide against the Governor?
- Next up, the approval numbers.
If Strickland is doing worse among his base than Corzine, in a state where the base is a smaller percentage of the electorate than New Jersey, then that's extremely bad news for Ohio's incumbent Governor. Provided this keeps, without question Ted Strickland will lose. It's impossible to win if your base in a purple state stays away.
What about Kasich?
In a shock to absolutely no one, Kasich's name recognition remains low. Until the campaign kicks into high gear with commercials, mailings and door-to-door efforts, that won't change. With that said, his unfavorables remain relatively unchanged, except for a drop from 18 to 11 points among Democrats and one point among Independents. Is this an indication that the Ohio Democrats' attacks on Kasich aren't working? Absolutely. What will their likely reaction be? Getting louder. Why? You know why.
But is Kasich's lack of name recognition a worry? Not at all, and as I've been discussing on this blog as far back as March, it's all part of the plan. Allowing Strickland to dominate news coverage does two things: 1) it increases voter perception of his ownership of Ohio's problems and 2) prevents Strickland from being able to engage in debate with an opponent, thereby eliminating any chance for the Governor to distract from his problems. And as we can see in the Governor's approval numbers, this strategy has worked like a charm.
Remember, we're still a year away from the election. Kasich is best served by letting Strickland stew, then charging in with a message of a proven alternative with a successful record of change.
- Next question of interest is whether voters are satisfied with the way things are going in Ohio.
- Has Ted kept his campaign promises?
- One of the final questions was particularly interesting, asking "regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you think would do a better job rebuilding Ohio's economy - Ted Strickland or John Kasich?"
Kasich wins this one, 41-33. 1 out of 7 Democrats think Kasich would be a better fit. Independents picked Kasich by 11. The frightening thing for Democrats? Kasich easily wins on this question when 69% of the electorate don't know enough about him to tell a pollster whether they approve or disapprove of him.
Wait 'til Kasich goes up with commercials highlighting his experience balancing the national budget for the first time since man walked on the moon.
In conclusion, this poll screams bad news for Ted Strickland. In order for him to turn things around there must be a major shift in Ohio's economy and a quick flip in job numbers. As we highlighted above, approval of the Governor goes hand in hand with the state of the state. If approval is low, so will voter turnout of the Governor's base. If turnout is low, the Governor can start packing his things.
And that's where we stand.