Pollsters have spent a fair amount of time focusing on Ohio in recent weeks, talking to voters about a variety of issues that give us some insight into the political landscape in this key battleground state heading into 2012.
Public Policy Polling recently spent some time in late May getting insight from voters about their attitudes toward the governor, leaders in Washington and the Republican field in the presidential race. The Democratic polling firm has been doling out the results over the last two weeks.
It started with some bad news for Gov. John Kasich (R). PPP found Kasich is experiencing very low approval from voters, now tied with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) as the least popular governor in the nation. According to the survey, 33 percent of voters approve of his job in office, compared to 56 percent of voters who disapprove. In March he had a slightly better 35-54 approval/disapproval rating. PPP concludes the controversy of Senate Bill 5, which limited the collective bargaining rights of public employees, has been very damaging. Things overall have been so bad, that voters surveyed said if they could vote for governor all over again, Ted Strickland (D) would beat Kasich 59-34.
So far, Mitt Romney is enjoying a lead in the Republican presidential field, as far as Ohio is concerned. Though he had not yet formally announced his candidacy when PPP conducted its poll, the former Massachusetts governor finds himself leading the Republican pack with 21 percent of voters saying they back him. Coming in number two is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin at 16 percent. They’re followed up by Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain tied at 12 percent. Gingrich lost ground after the very difficult first week he spent as an official candidate, with much of the controversy generated from his interview on Meet the Press earlier in the month.
Of course, Ohio is not an early state in primary season. So, much of the focus is not on the Buckeye State yet. However, Ohio is a key state in the general election. It’s also factoring into the Republicans’ strategy to try to take the Senate in 2012. Democrats are trying to hold onto 23 seats. However, Republicans are defending only 10.
Some political strategists see Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown’s seat as being in play. But so far, he’s enjoying a healthy lead over all his potential GOP rivals. PPP found he beats all of them by anywhere from 17-21 points. That’s up a couple points from the firm’s survey in March. At this point, Republicans seem to like former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell taking on Brown. Blackwell gets support from 40 to 49 percent of Republican voters. However, in a hypothetical matchup against Brown, he loses 51-33. Another interesting finding: one-third of voters say they don’t know Brown well enough to have an opinion of him. So, there are a lot of independent votes up for grabs for both Brown and whoever ends up in this race against him.