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Unpublished Q-Poll stats show regional volatility in Kasich-FitzGerald matchup

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When Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released its most recent poll nearly two weeks ago that plumbed the matchup in Ohio between the well-known incumbent Republican governor and his little known Democratic challenger, the advantage Gov. John Kasich enjoyed over Democratic Party endorsed Ed FitzGerald was 43-38 percent.

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Gov. Kasich had a 51 percent job approval rating, but only 46 percent of those surveyed thought he deserved to be reelected while 42 percent thought he shouldn't be reelected.

Gov. Kasich won by only two percentage points in 2010, so the five-point lead today eight months from Election Day he appears to have, according to the Q-Poll, is a marked improvement from four years ago when even in a low, 49-percent-turnout midterm election then candidate Kasich couldn't push past the 50-percent mark.

Regional volatility

The conventional wisdom on Capital Square in Columbus and elsewhere beyond Buckeye borders is that Gov. Kasich will win again in November. And if he does, regardless of his margin of victory, he'll strengthen his prospect as a darkhorse candidate the GOP base and those affiliated with it should pay attention to, as it moves toward the 2016 presidential cycle.

While he leads his opponent by five points now, a troubling number given it shrunk since the Q-Poll plumbed it last in November, statistics on the regional matchup between Kasich and FitzGerald show a volatile race remains. This year's matchup could surprise many pundits who think the race is Kasich's to lose but can't quite vision how that loss happens.

New numbers from Q-Poll show a lot of upside for FitzGerald, who Q-Poll said 70 percent of Ohioans don't know much about, but a slippery slope for Gov. Kasich, Ohio's Music Man and messiah of reform, who after 39 months on the job can't seem to climb to higher, stable ground.

Responding to a request from CGE, Ralph Hansen at Quinnipiac polling provided via email Tuesday a hitherto unreleased crosstab on the regional matchup breakdown between the two major party candidates. Unlike like Public Policy Polling, which has included third-party Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl in previous surveys showing he can nab upwards of six percent of the electorate, Q-Poll limits itself to Kasich v. FitzGerald.

A table not included in the February 19 published release, titled "Ohio Gov Can't Break Free Of Unknown Challenger, Voters Divided On Death Penalty," show the regional matchups between Gov. Kasich and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

Survey dates: February 12 - 17, 2014
1,370 Registered Voters
MoE (+/-%)

Q-Poll Regional Stats: Total: 2.65, Central: 5.67, NorthEast, 4.37, NorthWest, 9.34, SouthEast, 11.17, SouthWest, 7.00, WestCentral, 7.22

1. If the election for Governor were being held today, and the candidates were Ed FitzGerald the Democrat and John Kasich the Republican, for whom would you vote?

Total Cntrl NrthE NrthW SthE SthW WstCnt

FitzGerald: Total = 38%, Central = 30%, NorthEast = 40%, NorthWest = 42%, SouthEast = 38%, SouthWest = 41%, WestCentral = 39%
Kasich: Total = 43, Central = 51, NorthEast = 39, NorthWest = 39, SouthEast = 41, SouthWest = 43, WestCentral = 45
Someone else: Total = 1, Central = -, NorthEast = 2, NorthWest = -, SouthEast = 2, SouthWest = -, WestCentral = 3
Wouldn't vote: Total = 2, Central = 2, NorthEast = 1, NorthWest = 3, SouthEast = 1, SouthWest = 3, WestCentral = 3
DK/NA: Total = 16, Central = 17, NorthEast = 18, NorthWest = 16, SouthEast = 18, SouthWest = 14, WestCentral = 11

What this unpublished crosstab shows is that the spread between Kasich-FitzGerald in four of the six regions is a toss-up. The glaring exception is a 21-point positive spread in Central Ohio, where a case can be made that the Columbus Dispatch has given the incumbent state CEO both the editorial page and the front page. It's been said that Franklin D. Roosevelt once observed that newspapers could use their editorial page to rail against him as long as he got the front page. In the Central Ohio region, Kasich enjoys both courtesy of the Columbus Dispatch. In Kasich's second region of strength, West Central, rich red with Republicans, he tops out at six points.

Has Kasich hit his ceiling?

As close as the total race is now, it can grow closer for FitzGerald as he puts his campaign in drive to inform Ohio voters of who he is, what he wants to do and why voters should elect him, news that so far isn't registering with voters, as the Q-Poll noted. As important as the pro-message from the former FBI special agent turned prosecutor turned small town mayor may be, his counter-Kasich message from women's healthcare rights to protecting workers to funding local government and schools and letting the sun shine into Kasich's blackbox job creating entity JobsOhio will be equally important.

While Kasich may not be a household name to everyone in the state, and not because the Big Eight legacy newspapers haven't covered him enough, even in FitzGerald's home North East region, where you would think he is strongest, Kasich stands his equal. In the 2010 race against incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland, Kasich lost by 102,640 [251,251-148,611]. Election watchers familiar with Ohio voting patterns know well that a blowout in the northeast, especially the state's most populous county of Cuyahoga, can more than cancel out Republican wins in 70 or more fiscally and socially conservative counties that reliable vote the GOP ballot.

In Columbus, home to Ohio's Greatest Newspaper, Strickland also won, but by only 34,375 [203862 - 169487]. In Montgomery County, where Dayton is located, the two nearly tied, 89,379 for Strickland to 89,218 for Kasich. In Hamilton County, in the GOP Valhalla called southwest Ohio, Kasich won, but by only 11,135, 23,240 fewer votes than in Franklin County. In Lucas County, Kasich lost by 36,140 [S.88,210 - K.52,070]. In Summit County, where Akron is the county seat, Kasich lost to Strickland by 13,777 [S.93,740 to K.79,963].

Performed before Gov. Kasich delivered his fourth State of the State Address on Feb. 24 from Medina, southwest of Cleveland, the Q-Poll regional numbers show Team Kasich is vulnerable because the race is volatile. This volatility becomes more combustible if Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl remains in the race. Furthermore, Earl isn't the only third party candidate in the race, as the Green Party again fields Dennis Spisak who ran in 2010 and won 58,475 [1.52%] votes statewide. That same year, Libertarian Party candidate Ken Matesz, whose public sector bona fides don't match those of Earl, nonetheless hauled in 92,116 [2.39%] votes statewide.

Should Earl remain on the 2014 ballot, despite ongoing efforts to knock him out of contention for the General Election in November, and if he can garner even half the six percent PPP says he can get, based on the total turnout in 2010, that figure would be nearly 116,000 votes across Ohio's 88 counties. Recall that citizen Kasich only won by 77,127 votes statewide in his first statewide race in 2010.

For Ohio, the biggest presidential battleground state of them all, which has not failed to rehire an incumbent Republican governor in half a century, the combination of Democratic base voters turning out for FitzGerald and voters who harbor the Tea Party spirit who choose to vote for Earl or another third-party candidate will be reflected in future surveys.

With eight months until November 4, Gov. Kasich should worry that he's hit his ceiling. For Ed FitzGerald and Charlie Earl, they have no where to go but up from where they are today. Just as Bill Clinton was the last man standing in a three-way race that included President George H.W. Bush and a billionaire Texas tycoon like Ross Perot who ended up with 20 percent of the vote in 1992, 2014 could be a mini, state-based version that surprises pundits, prognosticators and Gov. Kasich, whose race it is to lose, which is more than possible.

Just as Mitt Romney and most Republicans could not believe they were not going to win in 2012 until they actual lost by five million votes nationwide, Gov. Kasich and his campaign staff may likewise believe his inevitable win this year is inevitable. While this unpublished Q-Poll table can and will be dismissed by GOP operatives, what cannot be dismissed is the tenuous advantage Gov. Kasich has over FitzGerald that seems more likely to contract than expand.

The news article Unpublished Q-Poll stats show regional volatility in Kasich-FitzGerald matchup appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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