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Polls reveal thin lead for GOP's John Kasich vs Dem's Ed FitzGerald

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Two polls out Tuesday show similar results in the race for Ohio governor this year, which for each of the major party candidates is good and bad news. According to a survey of 857 Ohio likely voters, performed by Magellan Strategies of Oklahoma for the Liberty Foundation of America [LFA], Gov. John R. Kasich, the incumbent first-term Republican elected in 2010, holds a 47-41 percent lead over his Democratic challenger and Cuyahoga County Executive, Ed FitzGerald.

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Gov. Kasich, who rode the wave of Tea Party activity four years ago into office with only 49-percent of the voter turnout which that year was below 50 percent, has become a household name among Ohio voters. Ed FitzGerald, a former FBI special agent and assistant county prosecutor who was Mayor of Lakewood, Ohio, before being elected chief executive of Cuyahoga County, has little name recognition to as many as 45 percent of Ohioans. The LFA survey, with a Margin of Error of 3.35 percent, shows seven percent are undecided while five percent fall into "other." Women outnumbered men 54-46 percent, while those aged 55-plus represented 58-percent of respondents. Eighty-four percent were White, nine percent were Black or African American, and three percent were Hispanic or Latino.

When the survey asked which potential Republican candidates for President they would support, Gov. Kasich came in at 10-percent, one point lower than Undecided. Mike Huckabee took top honors with 17 percent, Rand Paul was second with 15 percent and Chris Christie was third with 13 percent. Other choices included Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Scott Walker.

The second survey of the day on the 2014 gubernatorial race came in a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for NBC4 in Columbus. With Ohio's primary set for May 6, issues on voters' minds included job creation, healthcare and taxes. With Ohio officials like Gov. Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor having staked out a stance opposed to implementing the Affordable Care Act, and with news media coverage that for years painted the law as terribly flawed and unworkable, the finding that more than half of Ohioans—54 percent to 37 percent—oppose the ACA, aka, Obamacare, is not news. Meanwhile, whites and blacks, Democrats and Republicans, see the issue from opposite ends.

The NBC4 poll of 618 likely voters, with a Margin of Error of 4 points, shows 46 percent approve Gov. Kasich's performance but 39 don't agree. Only 33 percent have a favorable opinion of Fitzgerald, the Democrat compared to 23 percent who have an unfavorable opinion. Importantly for Kasich and FitzGerald, 45-percent have no opinion of Fitzgerald.

For Kasich, hold such a thin, under 50-percent lead over a candidate not well know this far out from November, is problematic. Kasich had low ratings a year into his three-plus years, and only recently has he broken the 50-percent approval threshold. Other polls, in sync with today's two polls, show him below 50-percent, which is good news for Democrats who hope to close the gap by October, and hope voters both turnout and break for FitzGerald, who unlike Gov. Kasich would be a firewall to the harsher elements embedded in the Republican-led legislature.

Forty-six percent of voters in the SurveyOhio poll say Ohio is on the right track compared to 43 percent who say Ohio is on the wrong track. Asked to vote in a hypothetical election for governor now, 46 percent would vote for Republican Kasich contrasted with 36 percent who would vote for Democratic Fitzgerald.

Ohio voters support the medical use of marijuana, 56 percent to 37 percent, with opposition coming from seniors and conservatives. Ohio voters split on the issue of same-sex marriage, with 43 percent supporting legalizing gay marriage compared to 49 percent who oppose it. In Ohio, where gay marriage hit the headlines when a federal judge ruled gay marriages performed in states that allow gay marriage must be honored by Ohio which doesn't allow it, 48 percent say Ohio should recognize same-sex marriages that have been performed in other states; 45 percent say Ohio should not recognize such marriages.

Gov. Kasich, who holds and is expected to maintain a big lead over FitzGerald in campaign cash, has aired two TV ads that dwell on his narrative of being a compassionate conservative, even though his critics would say he's anything but compassionate to anyone except the wealthiest. FitzGerald, who only has one-fifth of Kasich's treasury in his coffers, has aired a radio ad that attempts to disassemble Kasich's talking points that he's been a messiah of reform and job creation.

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