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Democrats in Trouble in Ohio

Governor unpopular while Senate candidates unknown despite statewide office

Some real smart analyst/blogger recently said that Ted Strickland was in trouble because unemployment was high – and likely to stay that way – the larger political environment was trending against him and he faced a credible opponent who would take advantage of these factors. While I try to remember who that was, please take a moment to look at some number that back that argument up:

Despite continuing to be relatively unknown Republican challenger John Kasich leads Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland 42-37 in his quest to be the state’s next Governor.

The numbers seem to be much more a referendum on Strickland than Kasich. 50% of voters in the state say they don’t know enough about Kasich to have an opinion, and those who do are pretty much split on him with 25% holding a favorable opinion and 24% seeing him negatively. Those usually aren’t the kinds of popularity numbers we see for someone leading an incumbent.

Strickland though is an unusually unpopular incumbent. Just 33% of voters in the state approve of the job he’s doing, with 47% disapproving. His own party is not enthusiastic about him with 53% approving, 23% disapproving, and 23% with no opinion. He has poor numbers with independents at 28/54 and with Republicans at 14/69.

The technical term for this sort of position for a sitting governor is I believe SOL:

Right now the Ohio Governor’s race is shaping up as a referendum on Ted Strickland and that’s not going to work out too well for the Democrats,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Strickland’s either going to have to change people’s minds about him or convince them that Kasich’s worse.

Um, yeah, good luck with that

A look at the US Senate race below.

Being a statewide officeholder is supposed to be an advantage. In elections favorable name recognition is crucial. Having been on the ballot statewide and being in the news more often (you can “make” your own news) is supposed to result in a candidate being more well known which should translate into positive poll numbers (unless you are Ted Strickland). Or at least that is conventional wisdom in these things. Which is why parties tend to support candidates that have this type of experience.

This CW does not bode well for Democratic US Senate primary candidates Lee Fisher and Jennifer Brunner. The latest polling has the Lt. Gov. and former jobs czar and the current Secretary of State not only losing but surprisingly unknown given their offices:

Ohio voters aren’t particularly familiar with any of the candidates running to take George Voinovich’s seat in the US Senate.

66% don’t know enough about Rob Portman to have an opinion, 62% are ambivalent toward Jennifer Brunner, and 55% don’t take a stance on Lee Fisher.

Portman has the early advantage, leading Brunner 38-37 and Fisher 41-36. That is largely due to a 37-25 edge against both Democratic candidates with independents.

I know what you are thinking: Portman has bad name ID too. Sure, but that was to be expected for a candidate who hasn’t run statewide and was not well known outside of his home area (where he is quite popular).

But on the Democratic side it was assumed that being a statewide elected official would be an advantage. That turns out not to be the case and that is a problem.

You know what else is a problem? The fact that President Obama and the recently passed health care reform bill are also unpopular:

  • 53% of the state disapproves of the President’s job performance
  • 54%of voters say they’re opposed to the health care reform bill with only 39% in support
  • 64% of independents are against it

Prominent statewide Democratic officeholders haven’t made an impression on voters, they are losing independents and the president and his policies are unpopular. The top of the ticket is in big trouble. This is not where the party thought they would be just a year ago.

Democrats in Ohio have to be worried.

P.s. As Geraghty pointed out If Ted Strickland Can’t Save Himself, He Can’t Save Any Ohio House Democrats

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