After holding small leads in PPP's first two Ohio polls of 2010 John Kasich has opened up a 50-40 advantage in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland.
The race has pretty much shaped up as a referendum on Strickland and that is not to the incumbent's advantage. Only 34% of voters in the state approve of the job he's doing while 52% disapprove. Republicans are now almost universal in their disapproval of him at 83% while Democrats are a little more divided in their support of his work at 67%. Independents go against him by a 59/26 margin as well.
Ohioans are decidedly ambivalent when it comes to their feelings about Kasich himself. 33% see him favorably, 33% see him unfavorably, and 33% have no opinion. Republicans are pretty positive toward him (62/10) while Democrats are almost equally negative (7/58) and independents are split nearly right down the middle (31/29). Voters in the state don't have any particular affection for Kasich, but this election isn't really about Kasich. It's about Barack Obama and Ted Strickland and not being them is enough to have Kasich in a very strong position to win in November.
Kasich leads 44-33 with independents and is pulling 89% of the Republican vote while only 78% of Democrats are committed to Strickland at this point. Those numbers with GOP voters are one of the major developments in the race since PPP polled in late June. At that point Kasich was up only 73-12 with voters in his party but Strickland has lost almost all of his crossover support since that time and it's now an 89-5 advantage for Kasich there.
Strickland's other big issue is one Democrats everywhere are having to deal with: diminished interest from the party base. Barack Obama won Ohio by 4 points in 2008 but those planning to turn out and vote this year say they went for John McCain by a 3 point margin. Between Strickland's unpopularity and the enthusiasm gap this is now looking like a very tough office for Democrats to hold.
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