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COLUMBUS - With a new poll Tuesday showing him leading by 10 percentage points, Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich again hit the friendly Republican territory of rural Ohio, urging supporters not to take the race for granted.
"We're ahead," he said in a restaurant in Bellefontaine. "People understand what we're doing. We have intensity."
But he added, "Don't leave us on the battlefield. Let's get it done."
The latest Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday showed Mr. Kasich leading Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland 51 percent to 41 percent among "likely voters" two weeks out from the Nov. 2 election. The poll showed the Republican garnering the support of two out of every three independents.
Mr. Kasich's lead had grown by 1 percentage point in the last two weeks, according to the poll, despite suggestions from Mr. Strickland's campaign that the race has tightened significantly.
President Obama may have drawn some 35,000 people to a Democratic rally at Ohio State University on Sunday night, but the poll conducted by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University Polling Institute shows the President is unpopular among Ohioans.
At every opportunity Tuesday, Mr. Kasich and his running mate, State Auditor Mary Taylor, tied the two together.
"The twins were here on Sunday, you know," Mr. Kasich told a group of about 50 supporters at the Jitterz Coffee Company in downtown Kenton. "Obama and Strickland hanging together. High taxes. Big government. Obamacare."
While campaigning in Cleveland, Mr. Strickland dismissed the Quinnipiac Poll numbers as an inaccurate representation of the race, noting that the poll had Ned Lamont, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in this year's Connecticut gubernatorial primary up by 3 percentage points going into the election. He lost by 16 points.
"That's the Quinnipiac poll in their home state," Mr. Strickland said. "So do I put a lot of confidence in the Quinnipiac Poll? No. I think their track record is that they're hugely unreliable. I can tell you we've done our own polling consistently, and I am a few points ahead. Very confident about that, and I am not paying a whole lot of attention to polls that say otherwise."
When contacted for comment Tuesday, Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said, "We stand by our numbers."
On the second day of a whirlwind tour with meet-and-greets in local GOP headquarters and businesses in western Ohio, Mr. Kasich talked to supporters in Auglaize, Hardin, Logan, Darke, and Preble counties.
Sometimes with a microphone in hand, sometimes not, the former congressman, Lehman Brothers regional manager, and Fox News political show host worked rooms like a motivational speaker, pulling members of the crowd into what was otherwise largely a standard stump speech.
"We have any Tea Party people here today? Love 'em," he said at his first stop at Auglaize County Republican headquarters in Wapakoneta. He used last week's dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped in a Chilean mine and brought it back to Ohio's economy.
"You see stories like that and it makes you realize that if you keep working together and pulling together, anything is possible," he said. "Our situation in Ohio is nowhere near as perilous as it was in that mine. And the reason it isn't is because we have a great location, great people, and great assets. The problem is it's been politics 24-7 for the last four years. Frankly, we've been stumbling and bumbling …"
He talked about lowering taxes, reforming Ohio's workers' compensation system, and reducing bureaucratic red tape, but, with the possible exception of his proposal to partially privatize the Department of Development, he offered few specific details.
The crowds were friendly, so it was unusual when 59-year-old Charleen Doss raised her hand to ask a question in the back of the room at the Homecoming Family Restaurant in Bellefontaine. A former mental health case manager, she said she lost her job as a result of Strickland budget cuts in 2007 and now works at a McDonald's, occasionally helping former clients in need who show up between serving burgers and fries.
"I hope he does something," she said later. "I don't know where the funding is. Maybe he needs to redirect the funding …"
A Republican, she said she voted for Ken Blackwell four years ago but probably would have voted for Mr. Strickland this year if not for those budget cuts.
Later, when asked about Ms. Doss' request in light of the fact that the next two-year budget situation is expected to be even tougher than the last, Mr. Kasich said, "I can't get into details. These aren't things that you just lay out on the back of your hand."
Later, he added, "Our goal is always to deliver a better service for the customer at the lowest price that we can. There are things that have to taken care of in this state, and one of them is the area of those who are the most vulnerable."
By the next stop in Greenville near the Indiana border, Mr. Kasich had incorporated Ms. Doss and her situation into his speech to make the case for job creation.
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