Sherrod Brown hasn't proven to have much appeal to Republicans or independents during his first four years in the Senate and as a result he could be vulnerable for reelection in 2012 if the GOP runs a strong candidate against him.
Ohio voters are pretty evenly divided on whether Brown's done a good job in office so far- 40% approve of his performance while 37% disapprove. Democrats overwhelmingly like him, by a 66/9 spread. Republicans for the most part dislike him with only 16% approving to 62% who disapprove. The biggest problem for Brown though is independents- with them only 28% approve to 48% disapproving. To put those numbers into some perspective Ted Strickland, who was just defeated for reelection, is at a 38/42 spread with independents.
Brown is tied in a hypothetical match up with Mike DeWine at 43% each. DeWine, having just been elected Attorney General, doesn't seem a likely candidate but the numbers give a good idea of how much the landscape has changed since Brown defeated DeWine by 12 points for reelection in 2006. DeWine wins over more Democrats (14%) than Brown does Republicans (8%) in that prospective match up and holds a 36-32 advantage with independents.
Brown leads a trio of lesser known Republicans in hypothetical match ups but in none of those scenarios does his support rise above 43%. Against incoming Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor he leads 40-38, against newly elected Secretary of State Jon Husted he's ahead 43-38, and against Congressman Jim Jordan the lead is 43-35.
Those leads for Brown might be a little artificially high- with the exception of the Husted contest there are a lot more undecided Republicans than Democrats in each of those hypothetical match ups. That's likely a product of the GOP candidates' relative anonymity. 62% of voters don't know enough about Husted to have formed an opinion about him and that number rises to 65% for Taylor and 73% for Jordan. Those folks would probably pick up undecided Republicans as they became better known.
Because Brown doesn't have a lot of crossover support it seems likely his fate will be closely intertwined with Barack Obama's. If Obama wins the state again, Brown likely will too. If Obama loses the state Brown's going to have a hard time, provided the GOP nominates a serviceable opponent against him- of course that's a big if as the party blew its chances against some easier marks than Brown in 2010 by nominating candidates far outside the mainstream.
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