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Politics


Ohio's gubernatorial poll underscores issues of familiarity, the economy
Digging deeper into the numbers of the Quinnipiac Poll
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
John Green says Gov. Kasich is benefitting from the economy and from ads.
Courtesy of FILE PHOTO
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In The Region:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald would have to dig pretty deeply into the 10 pages of results of the latest Quinnipiac poll to find good news. 

Incumbent Gov. John Kasich’s popularity has hit its highest point since his election four years ago, and – by varying margins – he’s doing well on everything from the economy to healthcare. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze spoke with John Green of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics about some of the political realities behind the numbers.

LISTEN: Q and A on gubernatorial politics

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The poll is the first since February – when Kasich and FitzGerald were running a fairly tight race, and the first since this month’s primary made FitzGerald and Kasich their parties’ official nominees.

The University of Akron’s John Green notes it’s also the first since the well-funded Kasich and groups like the Republican Governors’ Association started launching biographical and attack TV ads. 

“One of the big problems that Mr. FitzGerald has faced -- and it often happens with challengers in a big diverse state like Ohio -- he’s not very well known outside of northeastern Ohio. Now if you’re a Democratic gubernatorial nominee, it’s good to be known in Northeast Ohio. But to be competitive, one has to be known throughout the state.

“And that is a tough challenge when one doesn’t have a lot of money … because the easiest way to become known and be known quickly is to go on television, and that’s very expensive.”

That’s especially so in Ohio, he says, which has as many as nine distinct media markets.“One needs to be on television in all those areas.”

The economy plays in Kasich's favor
Green says Kasich’s ads are playing against a backdrop that – fairly or not – usually benefits or hurts an incumbent: The economy. And though the Quinnipiac poll shows Ohioans still have reservations about the state’s economy “people’s perception of the economy is more positive” and “Kasich does get positive marks from voters for his handling of the economy.” 

Another key number in the poll is found in the answer to the question of whether Kasich “cares about the needs and problems of people” like them.  Fifty-three percent of those polled says, “yes.” 

Medicaid expansion cuts both ways
Green says that’s important – and a bit unusual. 

“In some ways, Gov. Kasich is a very orthodox Republican: lower taxes, balanced budget, help businesses expand. But he has done a couple of unorthodox things, for example supporting the expansion of Medicaid in Ohio, which was not real popular with some members of his party.

“And a majority of Ohioans – a slim majority, but a majority – feel that Kasich cares about people like them. And that has often been a problem for a conservative office holder, whatever else their virtues may be -- convincing people that they really care about ordinary people.”

Reservations
There is one relatively bright spot in the poll for FitzGerald: Ohioans are evenly divided when it comes to abortion – with 29 percent approving and 29 percent disapproving how Kasich has handled such issues.

“Gov. Kasich has taken a fairly strong pro-life position in some of his legislation, in the state budget and so forth, and Ohioansare pretty evenly divided tax cuts, … and it may very well be that that’s an issue that could help generate Democratic turnout.”

 And, Green cautions: This is May and this is Ohio, which is “a very diverse and evenly divided state.” History suggests the margin in the gubernatorial race will narrow and “events can play a big role."

 

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