COLUMBUS — Republican John Kasich has captured a broad 17-point lead over Democratic Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland in a poll released Thursday by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University.
Strong support from independent voters, a group that helped put Mr. Strickland into office nearly four years ago, has given Mr. Kasich, the former congressman, a 54-37 percent lead a month and a half out from the Nov. 2 election. The results of the poll of 730 likely voters is far outside the margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
"Ohio is not an island," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Clearly Kasich is benefiting from the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic wave which seems to be sweeping the country.
"Ohio, which is the most important swing state in the country come presidential elections, is also a good marker for the off-year balloting," he said. "If Kasich were to lead a Republican sweep in Ohio, it would be a good indication that the Republican landslide many are predicting nationally might come to fruition."
The poll of likely voters ended on Tuesday, the day of the first televised debate between the two candidates so their performances have not yet factored into voters' opinions. Moments after the debate, Mr. Strickland had said recent poll numbers he had seen have shown the race tightening, not widening. He declined to give more details, however.
Mr. Kasich scores among would-be voters as more likely to do a better job with the economy than Mr. Strickland, who has a job approval rating of just 34 percent. Of those who say they're going to vote for Mr. Kasich, 42 percent say they consider their vote more a vote against Mr. Strickland than for the Republican.
Forty-five percent of voters say they're "very dissatisfied" with the state's direction, even as Mr. Strickland attempted in Tuesday's debate to argue that his actions have laid the groundwork for a strong economic recovery.
Polls of registered voters this spring by Quinnipiac had repeatedly given Mr. Strickland the edge over a largely unknown Mr. Kasich, but his support had been stagnant, showing little signs of growth. In the meantime, support for Mr. Kasich has surged, the polls shows.
The Quinnipiac Poll has been gauging the election mood of Ohio along with other key national swing states.