So here we are, with a Rasmussen Poll showing John Kasich's smallest lead yet, a statistically insignificant 1 point margin - 46-45.
I guess my supposition about the poll trends from yesterday was more accurate than I expected:
Yes, November is a long ways away. I'm sure we'll see these lines cross back and forth across eachother a few times. After all, it is Ohio.While these lines have yet to cross (Kasich still has a slight edge in the RCP Poll average), the gap has clearly narrowed.
But as I said even last month when Kasich was up 11, it's not the head-to-head numbers that matter this far out.
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, with a 10-point gain, you'd imagine Ted saw quite an improvement in his job approval numbers, right?
Not so much.
The key finding? Overall, Ted is still consistently underwater, 47-52, just as he has been going all the way back to December.
Other than the January outlier, disapproval among Independents hasn't shown any marked change and disapproval among his own base has only marginally improved.
Meanwhile, there has also been no statistically significant change in the overall Kasich approval numbers. But among the Indies, Kasich's numbers dropped down from where they stood last month to 46-26. Still, that's better than the 44-32 Kasich was earning from them two months ago in February.
So what deserves credit for Strickland's surge? Well it wasn't the Democrats. Strickland's margin within his own Party went from +68% last month up just 2 points to +70%. Instead it was Independents. The +9 margin in favor of Kasich among that subgroup was far smaller than any Rasmussen poll going back to December.
Of course, according to the 2008 CNN Exit Poll, Obama won Independents by just 8 points in Ohio, so maybe +9 for Kasich isn't so bad.
Additionally, Strickland has seen his Gubernatorial Approval Index(to steal a term from Rasmussen with his Presidential version), shrink from -12 to -5, with just 15% strongly approving and 20% strongly disapproving.
But comparitive to the President's 31% strong approval and 41% strong disapproval, Strickland clearly doesn't gin up the same kind of enthusiasm and dedication that makes one think much of his support is firm.
So what does this poll mean for Kasich in the long run? Nothing. However, if we see a trend of polls showing some firming up of these numbers over an extended period of time, the Kasich team may decide to pull the trigger and launch the first ads of the season in an effort to properly introduce him to the electorate and take advantage of Strickland's perpetually bad job approval rating. But for now Kasich's campaign should keep doing what they're doing and allow Strickland to wallow in his underwater job approval rating.