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ODP/PPP poll: John Kasich, Ed FitzGerald tied in 2014 Ohio gov race

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For a performance politician like John R. Kasich, who took his Fox TV political talk show experience and put it to work winning a skinny election victory in 2010 with the help of Tea Party activists who have now turned against him on many issues, most notably an expansion of Medicaid, it must seem unreal that after three years of controlling Ohio's executive branch, rolling out one major reform after another, being tied with a little known Democratic challenger is a raw reward for the kind of razzle dazzle that only a showman like Kasich can deliver.

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But Friday's release of a poll by Public Policy Polling [PPP], ranked among the top rated polling outfits in the nation, shows Gov. Kasich no longer trails Ed FitzGerald, his Democratic challenger for governor next year, by three points—38-35 from an August poll—but is now tied with FitzGerald at 41 all, shows Kasich stumbling a year in advance of what many analysts believe is an election he should win but can lose in many ways.

The poll was paid for by the Ohio Democratic Party, so officials at the Ohio Republican Party, naturally, laughed it off as partisan gimmickry designed to boost buzz about a candidate untested on a statewide stage, who they attack for "lackluster leadership of Cuyahoga County" that is "dragging down job-creation in the entire region." ORP officials lay blame on FitzGerald, a former Mayor of nearby Lakewood who reports to a council composed of local elected officials, for a downgrade in bond rating delivered to the county by S&P, attributed in part to flagging development when compared to other regions of Ohio.

Their claim is that FitzGerald has had the worst metro economy in the entire nation, but Kasich wears the number 44XXX, where Ohio ranks in comparison to the other 50 states.

So Kasich has his problems with job growth too—it's stalled, as he self-confessed it was when appearing recently on Meet the Press on CBS on Sundays, hosted by David Gregory. One of the firebrand Tea Party Republican governors—Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Tim Scott in Florida, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine— who took their states by storm in 2010, at the height of the fever against President Obama and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, now dubbed Obamacare, that propelled Republicans into statehouses and the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kasich has long complained about the so-called "headwinds from Washington," but what was learned from last Tuesday's elections is that more and more voters attribute those headwinds to GOP forces that have sought to undermine the White House at every turn. The disapproval rating for Republicans in general and the Tea Party in particular, have given renewed hope to Democrats that they can retake the U.S. The house next year, which if Democrats can retain their majority in the Senate would deliver a death blow to the GOP as a party and to many of its outspoken spokesman, like Gov. Kasich, who ran and won with the help of Tea Party activists in 2010 but who now find themselves in disfavor as the nation struggles to move forward from a Great Recession caused in large part by debts and deficits run up under Republicans when they controlled the White House and Congress for years under President George W. Bush.

While Ohio Republicans claim Gov. Kasich's "responsible leadership" has put Ohio back on the path to recovery, through a balanced budget and the lowering taxes that contributed to a rosy credit rating for the state, voters in the ODP/PPP poll have not showered their appreciation on Kasich, who longs for the national spotlight again.

Adding to Kasich's worries is the Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl, who could be a spoiler for him if he and his voters can play a role in next year's elections. "Clearly we've already started the momentum if PPP says we're at six percent," Earl said in a published report. "To be competitive we'll find the disaffected people who believe they want more of a say in what's going on. And that's not that difficult to find in Ohio today."

In the report from 10TV.com, Earl said he intends to be more than a spoiler. "I think we have a shot at winning. Is it a good one? No, but we have a shot because people are discouraged and disgruntled."

Gov. Kasich spent 18 years in Congress representing a reliably conservative district in central Ohio until he bowed out in 2000, at which time he transitioned to six years working as a Wall Street banker for Lehman Brothers, the investment house whose collapse lit the fuse that exploded into the Great Recession of 2008. The glib disciple of Jack Kemp era supply side economics, which has yet to prove its worth, tried to enter presidential politics in 2000, but quickly gave up when it became clear the Governor of Texas at the time, George W. Bush, was the GOP candidate everyone was rallying behind.

But with just three years under his belt as Ohio's go-go CEO-style governor, he seems ready to put himself in the national limelight again if he can just win a second term as governor. PPP took a measure of Kasich's chances for the White House back in August and found he doesn't fare well among the short list of Republican candidates who many pundits think will be the GOP standard bearer in 2016—names like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or Texas U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, among others—and loses badly in a hypothetical matchup with Hillary Clinton, the candidate widely seen as leading the Democratic ticket in five 2016. Ohio voters, including Republicans, are not on board with Kasich, PPP reports.

According to PPP, Gov. Kasich manages only a tie for fifth in a hypothetical 2016 primary field in his home state, registering at 8 percent. Rand Paul and Chris Christie lead the pack with 17 percent each followed by Jeb Bush at 10 percent, Marco Rubio at 9 percent, Kasich and Paul Ryan at 8 percent, Ted Cruz at 6 percent, and Bobby Jindal and Rick Santorum at 4 percent.

When it comes to the general electorate, Gov. Kasich trails Hillary Clinton by 18 points in a hypothetical match up, 53/35.

Clinton looks very strong in Ohio—leading Chris Christie 45/36, Jeb Bush 50/36, Rand Paul 51/36, and Paul Ryan 52/36 as well—but Kasich does the weakest on the home front, the polling out fit reported. The controversial abortion restrictions Gov. Kasich signed into law this summer are not helping him, as only 34 percent of voters support them to 40 percent opposed.

Dean Debnam, President of PPP, assessed Kasich's chances this way, "There’s been a decent amount of Kasich 2016 buzz recently, but he doesn’t have a lot of support for President in his home state."

What are Kasich's problems going forward? PPP finds a plurality of Ohio voters in support of gay marriage, 48% favor it to 42% who are opposed, but Kasich is stuck on supporting only civil unions. Younger voters especially are important on same sex marriage as demonstrated by those under 45 favor it by a 64/28 margin. Meanwhile, when it comes to the broader issue of legal rights for gay couples, 69 percent of Ohioans support at least civil unions to only 27 percent opposed to any sort of recognition. Even Republican voters by a 54/39 margin favor same sex marriage.

In the August poll showing Gov. Kasich trailing FitzGerald, a resident of Cuyahoga County in Ohio's populous northeast region who serves as the first executive of a reformed government structure in Ohio's most populous county, Kasich has a negative approval rating with 42 percent of voters approving of him to 47 percent who disapprove, representing a 10 point net decline from PPP's Ohio poll in November when he was at 45/40. Meanwhile, Ed FitzGerald remains relatively unknown to most voters in the state, with 62 percent not having an opinion about him one way or the other. Among those who do have one, 20 percent see him positively and 18 percent in a negative light.

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