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Quinnipiac Ohio Poll: FitzGerald down, maybe out as Kasich lead expands

By 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, the time Ohio's Democratic Party endorsed candidate for governor Ed FitzGerald unveiled his early education "Pre-K All the Way" program, the big news from the Quinnipiac poll numbers released earlier showing GOP Gov. John Kasich has now added ten points to the five point lead he had in February, made the scene of maybe a couple dozen people standing and holding support signs behind him seem very underwhelming.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald stands with a supporter Wednesday following announcement of his Pre-K All The Way program for all four-year-olds in Ohio.
John Michael Spinelli
Ohio Gov. John Kasich got a solid from Quinnipiac Wednesday, with results of its latest Ohio Poll showing he enjoys a comfortable double digit lead of his little known Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald.
Quinnipiac Ohio Poll

Notwithstanding the importance and value of his well reasoned proposal for all four-year-olds, which when contrasted to Gov. Kasich's efforts offers a divergent if not bold alternative, the Democratic Rocky Balboa from Cleveland got decked today by the Republican Apollo Creed in Columbus, who has so far in his political career managed to win all ten elections in which his name has appeared on the fall ballot.

Ed FitzGerald, who started running to beat John Kasich last year, is still little known by voters across the state. In today's poll, Gov. Kasich pushed ahead 50-35 percent. Performed by a nationally renowned and respected polling firm, whose margin of error in it's May 14th poll was less than three percent, the Quinnipiac numbers reflect both the impact of three commercials touting Gov. Kasich, two by his campaign, and one from the Republican Governors Association, and zero TV spots to date to introduce FitzGerald, who is poor in campaign cash compared to Mr. Kasich, and who, unlike the incumbent who is widely known throughout the state, remains largely unknown at best and a mystery at worst to Ohioans. Back in February, Quinnipiac's Ohio poll showed Gov. Kasich up on FitzGerald by 43-38, a gap Democrats said would be made up over the next six months until Election Day in early November.

The poll undertaken May 7-12 shows Ohioans still know little about FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County's first elected executive, even nearly a year after 63 of Ohio’s 88 Democratic Party county chairman endorsed him. The news that yet another poll shows that a majority of voters [63 percent this time] know little of FitzGerald should be a wake up call to Team FitzGerald. There are six months to go until voters vote, but while FitzGerald and others say that's plenty of time to reverse what is clearly a bad situation, it's plenty of time for Gov. Kasich to cement this lead or add to it. By a margin of 56 percent, Ohioans, who have been stingy with their support for Gov. Kasich until now, now approve the job he's doing. Quinnipiac surveyed 1,174 Ohio voters, and the poll's margin of error is under 3 percentage points.

"Ohio Gov. John Kasich has opened up a 15-point lead in his re-election race as voters give him sterling grades for his job performance, especially on the economy," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. "He gets plus-50 percent approval ratings from voters on his handling of the economy and the state budget. These numbers are crucial because the economy and jobs are the most important issues in the minds of voters.

Quinnipiac: Ohio voters approve 53 - 38 percent of the way Kasich is handling the economy and jobs and give him positive or split grades on handling other issues: 48 - 38 percent on taxes; 51 - 35 percent on the state budget; 42 - 38 percent on health care. And on one of Kasich's weakest areas, abortion, which happens to be one of FitzGerald's strongest areas, they tie at 29 - 29.

"Democratic County Executive Ed FitzGerald remains unknown to many voters. Democratic optimists will argue that with six months until Election Day, FitzGerald has a golden opportunity to reach all those voters. He's going to have to spend a lot of money on that introduction while the better-funded Kasich will introduce FitzGerald to those same voters in a much less flattering way."

Further evidence that six months may not be long enough for Team FitzGerald to orchestrate a reversal of fortune comes in the form of voter turnout for Ohio's primary. Last Tuesday bore witness to the fact that under 17 percent of registered voters turned out to vote at all. FitzGerald beat his obscure primary challenger with 83 percent of the vote, but by most accounts, FitzGerald's voter base, millenials, minorities and women, seem sleepy again this year, much as they were in 2010, when John Kasich and Republicans swept Democrats away at the state and national level.

The poll said that voters, 67 - 23 percent, believe Kasich has strong leadership qualities; 54 - 31 percent that he is honest and trustworthy; 53 - 39 percent that he cares about their needs and problems, and 57 - 30 that he has good judgment.

"Voters think Gov. Kasich deserves another term and two-thirds consider him a strong leader. A small majority says he cares about their needs, a measure on which Republicans, even successful ones, often don't do that well. And perhaps most important for Kasich's re-election, 60 percent of voters are satisfied with the way things are going in the state," Brown said.

Today's poll also looked at Ohio voter thoughts on the death penalty. By a margin of 69 - 25 percent, Ohioans say they approve of it for persons convicted of murder. However, given a choice, 43 percent of voters favor the death penalty and 40 percent favor life in prison with no chance of parole. Nine percent favor life in prison with a chance of parole, a total of 49 percent for the two life options.

Kasich won in 2010 and so did Republicans when they reclaimed the Ohio House, which has been in GOP hands since 1994 with the lone exception of one two-year block from 2008-2010. Even if FitzGerald were to achieve a real Ohio miracle, beating Gov. Kasich this fall, he would forced to wrangle with a GOP-controlled legislature that could, if Republicans win even more seats this year than four years ago, override any veto the executive branch might make. FitzGerald can propose any number of programs, as he did today in Westerville, home territory for Kasich, who represented the area nine terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, but a legislature with a supermajority could and would make FitzGerald's term as governor a real challenge. What would that look like? Just look at Washington, where the Obama White House has been tripped up at every turn by just one branch of government, the U.S. House, that refuses to play ball with the president. That same scenario would likely play out in the Buckeye State, since it's worked well for the GOP at the national level.

The question that must be asked now, is by how much will Gov. Kasich win reelection? If he can win by more than two percent, his margin four years ago, he can crow that he is the comeback governor Republican say he is. If he can win by five or more points, as the Quinnipiac poll today suggests he can, his Ohio miracle would be a shot of adrenaline for his inevitable entry into the 2016 GOP sweepstakes for president. Ed FitzGerald, who declined to tell CGE when his first TV spot would air, had better hatch a plan soon to put some wind beneath his wings or his campaign will be mothballed, as will his chances of raising campaign cash, way before November arrives.

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