COLUMBUS - The latest Quinnipiac Poll released Thursday gives Republican John Kasich a 17-point lead over Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat.
Independents, a group who helped Mr. Strickland to a landslide victory less than four years ago, have given his opponent, a former congressman and investment manager, a 54-37 percent lead a month and a half out from the Nov. 2 election, according to the poll of 730 likely voters by Quinnipiac University, in Connecticut.
"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,'' Mr. Brown 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 six-day poll ended on Tuesday, the day of the first televised debate between the two candidates, so their performances at the debate had not factored in to the opinions of those questioned.
Democrats pointed to recent Rasmussen and Fox News polls that have shown a tighter race but with Mr. Kasich still leading. In the Quinnipiac Poll, Mr. Kasich scored among those questioned as more likely to do a better job with the economy than Mr. Strickland, who has a job approval rating of 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.
"With more than three out of four voters unsatisfied with the way things are going in Ohio, it's no surprise that Governor Strickland trails so badly," Mr. Brown said. "In bad times, governors and presidents pay the political price, and since Barack Obama is not on the ballot this year, Ted Strickland is the focus of unhappy Ohioans."
Both campaigns said it was their policy not to discuss polls.
Four years after GOP scandal led to a near sweep of Republicans from statewide nonjudicial Ohio office, and two years after Democrats added control of the Ohio House to their arsenal, polls suggest the pendulum may have swung in the opposite direction.
"It's volatile," Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern said. "Americans share a deep concern with how and why we became embroiled in this recession, and they collectively want to hold people accountable. Our mission is to remind voters that this global recession was a result of the George Bush and Dick Cheney policies. The two-year anniversary of [the collapse of] Lehman Brothers [on Wednesday] was a good reminder of the challenging economy and the greed on Wall Street. Sadly, there's been a lack of attention placed on that greed."
Republican strategist Mark Weaver said internal polling he has seen has shown similar trends for the GOP across the board for statewide offices.
"Traditionally, the top of the ticket is the governor's race and to a lesser degree the [U.S.] Senate race," he said. "Down-ballot races like attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor are often impacted by big numbers at the top of the ticket. … Many voters look at each race independently but many others will vote with one fell swoop. …
"This shows a rising impatience among independent voters with the party in power," he said. "They want solutions, and they want them fast. Whether that's possible is a whole other question."
The Quinnipiac Poll was released just as the Strickland campaign released its first ads talking about his record rather than about Mr. Kasich. The ad features the Republican chief executives of Cleveland's Quasar Energy Group and Marysville's Scotts Miracle-Grow praising the Strickland administration's renewable energy and tax-credit policies respectively with boosting jobs in their industries.
"Why would Jim Hagedorn, a Republican, support a Democrat?" asks Mr. Hagedorn, Scotts chief executive, in the ad featuring him. "Because he's shown a commitment to our business. He's shown a commitment to growing businesses in the state of Ohio."
The Republican Governors' Association, which has financed ads criticizing Mr. Strickland, countered that Mr. Hagedorn is a registered voter in New York, and that Scotts gave $10,000 to the governors association.
"Taxpayers aren't going to like the fact that Strickland spent $500,000 of their money to earn the endorsement of a New York CEO," Chris Schrimpf, a governors association spokesman, said.
Polls of registered voters earlier this year by Quinnipiac repeatedly had given Mr. Strickland the edge over a largely unknown Mr. Kasich. But the governor's numbers were largely stagnant, showing little momentum.
While earlier Quinnipiac polls in Ohio focused on registered voters, this one questioned likely voters. Quinnipiac will release its latest poll today looking at the U.S. Senate race between Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Lee Fisher.
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