As soon as Jim Tressel stepped down as Ohio State's football coach folks started contacting us and saying we needed to test him as a potential Republican Senate candidate against Sherrod Brown. So on our poll of the state last weekend, the first we've conducted since Tressel's resignation, we did.
Tressel remains a pretty popular figure in the state. 39% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 27% with a negative one. Those numbers are certainly better than any major politician in the state can claim. Beyond that he has bipartisan appeal. Both Republicans (44/19) and Democrats (37/28) have a favorable opinion of him.
Nevertheless Tressel would trail Brown in a hypothetical match up, 46-34. Democrats may like Tressel but they wouldn't be willing to actually vote for him over their incumbent Senator. Brown leads him 79-9 within his party. Brown also has a 43-31 lead with independents, while Tressel has the 68-6 advantage with Republicans.
Tressel does as well as any of the Republicans who are actually running or could plausbly get into the race though. Brown leads Congressman Jim Jordan 47-35, former state senator Kevin Coughlin 47-33, and State Treasurer Josh Mandel 48-33.
Brown is not as safe as those double digit margins might suggest. Mandel has only 34% name recognition, Jordan's is just 29%, and only 23% of voters claim to have an opinion about Coughlin. Because they're so unknown at this point there are far more Republican voters than Democrats undecided in each of these match ups and that means there would be definite tightening once one of them actually became the GOP nominee.
Brown's approval numbers are not exactly stellar, with 37% of voters approving of him to 34% who disapprove. Independents split against him by a 32/40 margin. Still his net approval is running 11 points ahead of Obama's in the state, so Brown will probably continue to be out ahead unless the President really, really tanks. Republicans have some reasons for hope here but compared to places like Nebraska, Montana, and Missouri it's looking like a second tier pick up possibility.
Full results here