If Ken Blackwell decides to run for the Republican Senate nomination in Ohio next year he's going to be very difficult to beat in a primary. In the most likely current configuration of candidates Blackwell gets 49% to 16% for Josh Mandel and just 4% for Kevin Coughlin. 31% of voters say they're undecided.
You can explain some of that by Blackwell's name recognition. 61% of Republican primary voters know enough about him to have an opinion compared to just 24% for Mandel and 14% for Coughlin. That's not the whole story though- GOP voters don't just know Blackwell, they also really like him. His favorability is 42/19. And even with the 24% of voters that do know who Mandel is, Blackwell has a 36-29 advantage. And with the 14% who know Coughlin Blackwell gets 51% to 24% for Mandel and 13% for Coughlin. Those numbers suggest Blackwell will be working from a position of strength even as his opponents do become better known.
Blackwell polls well because he's the darling of the far right in the state. With moderate Republicans he leads Mandel only 28-20. But as you go across the ideological spectrum that leads increases, to 48-15 with 'somewhat conservative' voters and all the way to 62-17 with 'very conservative' ones. If this race develops as a choice between a conservative Blackwell and a more moderate Mandel, well, we know how that generally worked out in Republican primaries last year.
We also asked a broader Republican primary question including these three candidates and also Mary Taylor and Jim Jordan who have been discussed at various points as folks who could potentially throw their hats in the ring. Blackwell gets 40% in that configuration to 12% for Jordan, 9% for Mandel, 7% for Taylor, and 4% for Coughlin.
Our Presidential numbers in the state confirm Mitt Romney's rise to the top with Mike Huckabee out of the race, as well as the surge of Herman Cain. Romney's getting 21% to 16% for Sarah Palin, 12% each for Cain and Newt Gingrich, 10% for Michele Bachmann, 9% for Ron Paul, 5% for Tim Pawlenty, and 1% for Jon Huntsman.
Romney's ahead in Ohio because he has a broad lead with voters describing themselves as 'somewhat conservative,' getting 27% with Gingrich coming in second at 14%. He's also ahead with moderates at 22% to Palin's 18%. Voters falling into the 'very conservative' camp continue to be a problem for him though. His favorability with them is a +37 spread at 61/24. That puts him a whooping 33 points below Palin's standing with that same group, which is a +70 spread at 83/13.
Palin leads the horse race with those voters at 20% with Michele Bachmann at 15%, and Romney tying Cain for third at 13%. Maybe voters on the far right will split their votes enough that their lack of support doesn't cost Romney the nomination but for now they look like they could be a big problem.
Full results here