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Kasich-FitzGerald 2014 matchup a toss up, new poll shows

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It's widely known that as newspapers try to navigate their steady decline from the once powerful force they were in communities in decades past, to where they are today when some experts say their editorial decisions can at best influence no more than three percent of their readership, their ability to move needles just isn't what it used to be.

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Rocky 2014

Increasingly, newspaper editorial boards are given short shrift by readers who now have many more alternatives to news than just the local hometown newspaper.

In Ohio, the fight to watch next year in the medium-term elections is the matchup between first-term incumbent Republican Gov. John R. Kasich and Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

The release of polling results Monday shows that Gov. Kasich, the Apollo Creed of Ohio, finds himself in a toss-up match with FitzGerald, the Rocky Balboa candidate from Cleveland. Kasich, who despite three years of generally positive coverage by Ohio's Big Eight newspapers is no more than two points ahead of his little known challenger, whose campaign has just undergone three weeks of attacks on him and his African-American running mate pick over back taxes.

Following weeks of grilling by Ohio's press corps of State Senator Eric Kearney's back taxes, which he acknowledged are as much as $825,000 due to losses the publishing business he runs with his wife, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Cincinnati Enquirer, papers that endorsed Kasich in 2010, wrote editorials following the media feeding frenzy blasting FitzGerald for his pick of Kearney, saying it shows he isn't ready to be governor. The Columbus Dispatch, who likewise endorsed Kasich in 2010 and who few would dispute has been the most friendly to him despite a warehouse full of problems that warrant investigation, officially endorsed Kasich 46 weeks before next year's November election by penning an editorial that dismissed FitzGerald as incompetent.

PPP shows Kasich-FitzGerald a toss up

What's been the impact of all this negative newspaper reportage on FitzGerald and his campaign? Tom Jensen, Director of Public Policy Polling, said it looks like a toss up race.

It its most recent survey of the Ohio Governor’s race, Jensen said Gov. Kasich is polling at just 40 percent, "a very weak position for an incumbent." Kasich's Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, is only two points behind at 38 percent. What will make the race next year exciting for FitzGerald and scary for Kasich is knowing that if Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl is on the ballot, he could nab 6 percent of the vote.

What should be worrisome to for Gov. Kasich, who only got 23.5 percent of registered voters in 2010 when Tea Party enthusiasm sweep Republicans into seats formerly held by Democrats, is that 16 percent of voters are still uncommitted.

In an early poll in November conducted for Ohio Democrats, PPP found that Kasich and FitzGerald were tied up at 41 percent. The previous PPP poll showed Kasich trailing FitzGerald, a fact Gov. Kasich showed great displeasure with when CGE asked him about it this summer.

And even in the face of a rebound by Republicans following weeks of negative stories about the largely failed roll out of Obamacare, the politics of the governor's race is about the same, which comes as great news to a beleaguered FitzGerald Campaign who based on newspaper coverage of the former FBI agent and Mayor Lakewood, Ohio, will have to conduct a campaign of miracles, one of which is to win with help from Earl, who Tea Party leaders and their followers will turn to after turning against Kasich over issues of Medicaid expansion, budgeting and right to work.

Highlights from the polling, PPP's Jensen said in an email to interested parties, is that FitzGerald dominates the middle, earning 55 percent of the vote with moderates to just 17 percent for Kasich. A key worry bead for Gov. Kasich is that 66 percent of voters who remain undecided are women, "giving FitzGerald a lot of room to grow with a traditionally strong Democratic constituency."

Women played a strong role last year in electing President Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown to second terms. Gov. Kasich has signed several bills passed by a pro-life, anti-abortion legislature that present one obstacle after another that limit health care options for women, including defunding of Planned Parenthood by re-prioritizing who the state funds.

From the start of his candidacy, FitzGerald has said he will be a strong supporter of women’s health care and supports abortion rights. Gov. Kasich, who signed the state's largest budget bill ever in June that included provisions harmful to women that heard no debate in committee, co-sponsored these new abortion restrictions by not vetoing them. Moreover, he's been attacked by Democrats, progressives and pro-choice interests for appointing the leader of Ohio Right to Life to the Ohio State Medical Board.

Another problem area for Kasich is his opposition to marriage equality. The former Fox TV political talk show host has stumbled on his position, eventually giving a weak explanation for why he's for civil unions. FitzGerald is supporting the LGBT community, which is good since the survey showed that 85 percent of Ohioans say they know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Marriage Equality forces hope to have a constitutional amendment on the ballot next November, which will be bad for Kasich but good for FitzGerald.

Fifty-four percent said they considered themselves more liberal compared to 24 percent who said they were more conservative with 25 percent not sure. The political version of that question found 55 percent were somewhat to very conservative with only 18 percent confessing they were somewhat more liberal to very liberal. Twenty-eight percent called themselves moderate.

Published reports Tuesday speculate on whether Todd Portune, an attorney and Hamilton County commissioner, will actually challenge FitzGerald in next year's primary season. Portune told one reporter that he'll make a decision by the end of the year whether to form a committee, begin raising money and collecting signatures to qualify for the May primary.

"I think, at minimum, [Ed FitzGerald] needs to be challenged to get his A-game going if he's going to be the nominee," Portune told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. But if he does file, he says in it to win it.

PPP surveyed 1,011 Ohio voters from December 6th to 8th. The margin of error is +/-3.1%.

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The post Kasich-FitzGerald 2014 matchup a toss up, new poll shows appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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