Public Policy Polling (PPP) is a very well respected national Democratic polling firm.
Their most recent poll, released yesterday, shows John Kasich leading Ted Strickland 43%-41%, or well within the 4.5% margin of error.
Unlike most other polls that test the Ohio Governor's race, PPP is particularly transparent about whom they are testing and their Party ID.
This poll tested registered voters. As we all know, registered voters tend to be less informed and traditionally skew left.
But PPP does a solid job of ensuring their sample reflects Ohio's Party ID breakdown better than what other polls have done.
This poll's sample included questions about Party ID and for whom respondees voted for in 2008.
Party ID reflected very close to the 2008 exit polls, with 44% Dem, 38% GOP, and 18% Independent. The respondees also polled very close to the 2008 results with 50% having voted for Obama and 44% having gone for McCain.
In other words, this poll has my respect.
So let's get to the dirty details.
As we said before, Kasich is leading, though his lead has shrunk by 3 points.
Strickland's approval sits at an amazingly low 37%, up slightly from 33% three months ago. His net approval rating is a Corzine-like -11. 37% approve. 48% disapprove. That is massively bad news for Strickland.
Kasich made some changes as well. After two months of being massively outspent with attack TV ads. And with no response from the GOP that introduced Kasich to the voters, that was bound to happen. The results? Kasich's net favoribility rating went from +1 to -2. That's it. After all those hard dollars spent, Strickland saw a measly 3 point swing. A swing that is within the margin of error of the poll. Embarrassing.
This is where it gets pretty interesting. Try to keep up.
To start, Strickland's favorability showed only minor changes from March among Obama and McCain voters.
But Kasich did show some movement. Among McCain voters Kasich went to from 39-17 in March to a 50-12 favorable/unfavorable rating. That's a 16 point net improvement. Inversely, Kasich went from 13-31 among Obama voters in March to 9-47. The money spent by the Dems against Kasich worked, right?!
Despite his heightened negatives, the number of Obama voters that support Kasich more than doubled from March to June. Money well spent, eh Dems?
Strickland's approval ratings among Democrats showed a decent improvement, going from +30 to +39. But his approval rating among Republicans shrank by 5 points. I guess that NRA endorsement didn't do much, eh?
Ted's best gain came among Independents, going from -26 approval to -11 (though still at a lowly 36). Kasich's numbers among Indies barely changed, going from a +3 to a +1.
Another interesting way to look at it is to compare Indie approval relative to overall name ID. While only 17% of Independents don't know Strickland, his approval rating sits at just 36%. Meanwhile, a full 41% of Indies don't know Kasich, and he sits only 6 points back from Strickland in favorability.
So what happens when these Independents vote? They go overwhelmingly to John Kasich, 45-26. That means even Indies that don't know Kasich are still preferring to pull the lever for the challenger over the incumbent.
But did Independent support change from the last time? Yes, but only by 4 points, or within the margin of error.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Ted can't win unless he spins positively about his own record while also substantively attacking Kasich. So far he hasn't done that.
While his numbers have shown some improvement, they are light years away from where they need to be in order to make this race competitive in the fall.
Ultimately, this poll highlights that no matter how desperately you try to change the numbers of your opponent, an incumbent can't run from his record.
And Kasich hasn't even presented his case yet.
Ted, you're running out of time. It may be time to start praying for a miracle.