Trouble Brewing For Ohio Dems: Polls Show Major GOP Momentum In Key Races

September 17, 2010 4:45 am

The Republican nominees for Governor and Senator in the crucial presidential swing state of Ohio appear poised to run away with their respective races, according to the latest polls. The situation is not as dire for the Democratic nominee for Senate, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, as it appears to be for Gov. Ted Strickland, who public polls suggest could be in free fall against his Republican opponent, former Rep. John Kasich. But neither Dems look to be in great shape.

Democrats on the ground in Ohio scoff at the notion that the situation is especially bad for their high-profile Democratic candidates, but the numbers really don’t look good. And there’s at least one report that national Democrats could be considering pulling up stakes in the Buckeye State and sending valuable resources elsewhere to shore up Democratic candidates with better chances in other states.

Publicly released polls of likely voters from Quinnipiac University, CNN/Time and SurveyUSA this week show Strickland down big against his Republican opponent. The TPM Poll Average shows Kasich ahead 50.0-40.9. (The average doesn’t include the SurveyUSA poll which showed Kasich leading Strickland 52-40 on a general election ballot featuring Green and Libertarian nominees.) Trendlines show that Kasich is taking off like a rocket lately, while Strickland is actually losing support.

The issue for the first term Governor appears to be independents. Kasich is crushing Strickland among non-aligned voters in both the CNN/Time poll (where he commands a 16-point lead among independents) and the Q poll (where Kasich leads among indys by a staggering 23 points).

“Not only that, but John Kasich does slightly better among Democrats than Strickland does among Republicans,” Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said in his analysis of the numbers. “There are almost seven weeks until Election Day, but Gov. Ted Strickland has his work cut out for him. One reason for the size of Kasich’s lead is that Republicans and anti-Obama independents and Democrats seem more enthusiastic about voting this year.”

According to Strickland allies, it just simply is not as bad as it looks. They say that voters have not yet made up their minds in the race — and that Strickland has really just begun to fight. They say that Kasich and the RGA have been on the air alone for more than a month while Strickland has just begun to ramp up his general election push. And supporters point to internal poll numbers that show the race is essentially a toss up where Strickland trails by just three points, not the more than 10 he trails by in the public polls.

“We are not there yet, but have a clear path to victory.” Strickland’s pollster writes in an internal polling memo obtained by TPMDC.

It’s the same story (minus the internal polling) at the Fisher camp. Recent polls in that race show the Democrat trailing Republican nominee and former Rep. Rob Portman by a significant margin (the TPM Poll Average shows Portman ahead 48.4-39.5) with trendlines showing the Republican breaking away:

Fisher supporters say, like Strickland’s team does, that they still have plenty of time to set things right. There’s many weeks to go, and Fisher’s just now getting on the air with a hard-hitting spot that theoretically taps into Ohio voters’ frustration over their high unemployment rate. Quite simply, Fisher’s supporters told me yesterday, the Democrat hasn’t made his case to the voters yet and there’s still plenty of time to do it.

National Democrats may have a different take, however. According to the Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder, the national party is considering moving on from the Buckeye State and leaving their candidates to beat back their Republican opposition more or less on their own.

“In Ohio, it’s getting so bad for Democrats that the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are actively weighing their level of commitment,” he writes.

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