Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich, whose three-plus years in office has been marked by a slowing economy and a penchant for operating under the cover of secrecy if he can, has largely been deemed by Ohio media as the inevitable winner in next year's race for governor against a little known Democratic government executive from northeast Ohio.
For Gov. Kasich, who won less than half of half of Ohio's registered voters in 2010, the year of the rise of the Tea Party that helped push him over the finish line ahead of a beleaguered incumbent Democratic governor by a little more than 77,000 votes statewide, his 31- months in office has been marked by successes made possibly only because he had a friendly Republican-led legislature that has followed his lead on one reform after another, including the creation, funding and exemption from public scrutiny of Kasich's signature and secret economic development group JobsOhio, which has come under fire from Democrats and other critics of Kasich since its born-on-date in 2011.
There were times in the past when Kasich, an 18-year congressman from central Ohio, was ranked as one of the least liked governors in the nation. Over time, though, Kasich's job approval ratings ticked up to slightly above 50 percent, a level he could point to as proof his whirlwind political performances were gaining traction with Ohio voters.
But Gov. Kasich's re-election inevitability got T-boned Tuesday with the release of a Public Policy Polling (PPP) that showed former FBI agent and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald leading Kasich in a straight matchup. In the wake of last year's presidential election, PPP has been judged as one of the most accurate pollsters in America.
In a survey of 551 Ohio voters from August 16 – 19, PPP reported FitzGerald with a three-point lead over Kasich, 38-35, in the race for Governor next year. Kasich’s approval/disapproval rating also suffered, dropping a full 10 points to 42-47%, since the last time PPP polled in the Governor’s race last year.
Kasich wins 68 percent of the Republican vote compared to FitzGerald's 61 percent of Democrats. FitzGerald benefits [40/31] with independents while Kasich performs poorly with them [34/52, according to an analysis performed by Tom Jensen of PPP and sent to CGE via email.
Nearly four years ago, PPP reported one of the first polls to show Ohio’s incumbent Governor was vulnerable, with John Kasich trailing in that race by two points.
Today’s poll is the first survey of Ohioans in the governor’s race since passage of a $62 billion budget Kasich signed that many have called radical and especially hurtful to women since several anti-women's health issues were inserted in it outside the normal procedure of legislative hearings. The former Fox TV political talk show host and Wall Street banker for Lehman Brothers has also found himself on the defense regarding alleged conflicts of interest with JobsOhio by himself and friends who benefited financially from the secret public-private economic development group.
Ohio Tea Party activists have abandoned Kasich this time around, saying he's a big government Republican who wants to expand Medicaid, raise taxes on the many to pay for tax cuts for the few, increase state spending at the expense of local governments and won't pursue a right-to-work law. Tea Party anger at Kasich may be at play in the PPP poll. Others say that the JobsOhio corruption issue is real and it's taking a toll on Kasich. With Ohio now ranked 47th in job creation, Kasich's so-called crony capitalism scheme is good for his fund raising but that's all.
Democrats, who were quick to exploit the results of today's PPP poll, attributed Gov. Kasich’s drop in polling to a number of factors, including:
- Kasich and his friends were caught self-dealing with JobsOhio. According to breaking reports by the Dayton Daily News and the AP, six of the nine board members of JobsOhio, Kasich’s secretive economic development agency, had direct financial ties to companies receiving public funds. Even worse, Kasich himself received personal compensation while Governor from a company receiving state funding.
- In June, Kasich signed a state budget dramatically shifting Ohio’s tax burden onto the middle class. Kasich’s budget radically shifted the tax burden onto Ohio’s middle-class families, raising the sales tax, ending breaks for seniors, and increasing the cost of future property taxes – all in order to pay for cuts for the rich.
- Kasich’s budget sets women’s health care back 60 years. The Governor’s budget was so extreme it defunded Planned Parenthood, and included a number of other attacks, setting women’s health care back a generation.
Jensen offered insight on other parts of today's survey:
- Mike DeWine is in a strong position for reelection as Attorney General. He has a 49/28 overall approval rating and it's 40/40 even among Democrats, a rare amount of crossover appeal in these polarized times. He leads Democratic challenger David Pepper 46/32 in a hypothetical match up. It would have been hard to imagine in 2006 when he was losing to Sherrod Brown by 12 points, but DeWine is now the strongest Republican in the state.
- On the other side of the spectrum it's clear that Josh Mandel did a lot of damage to himself in his Senate campaign last year. Our final poll of that contest found him with a 36/50 favorability rating, and he hasn't done much to rehabilitate his image since then. Only 30% of voters approve of the job he's doing as Treasurer to 41% who disapprove, and he trails 40/35 in a head to head with challenger Connie Pillich.
- And splitting the difference between DeWine and Mandel's standing is Secretary of State Jon Husted. Voters are evenly divided on his job performance with 28% approving, 28% disapproving, and the largest group at 44% not having an opinion either way. Voters are almost as divided when it comes to his standing for reelection- he leads Democratic challenger Nina Turner by a single point at 37/36.
It's early, Jensen wrote, "but it looks like Ohio could be set for some pretty exciting races in 2014."
FitzGerald, a former FBI agent on the Organized Task Force, assistant prosecutor, Lakewood mayor, and county executive, likes to say he's "brought down corrupt public officials, cleaned up government and fought to make government work for the middle class." www.edfitzgeraldforohio.com.
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