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Published: Friday, 5/11/2012

New polls indicate Brown's lead in Ohio U.S. Senate race shrinking

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

Two new opinion polls released on Thursday show the race tightening between incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) and Republican opponent Josh Mandel, the elected state treasurer.

Senator Brown has a lead of 46 percent to 40 percent in the poll by Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut, and a lead of 45 percent to 37 percent in a poll by Public Policy Polling of Raleigh, N.C.

Both polls find the race closer than it was the last time they asked Ohio voters.

Also, a question included in the Quinnipiac University poll seeks to find out whether U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) would add political value to Republican Mitt Romney's campaign for president in Ohio if he were named Mr. Romney's running mate. The answer is, not much, so far.

In Quinnipiac's March poll, Senator Brown led Mr. Mandel 46 percent to 36 percent. Since March Mr. Mandel has begun to inch up on Mr. Brown's 46 percent, during the same time that Mr. Mandel has been running TV ads that focus on his service as a Marine in Iraq.

READ MORE by Tom Troy at the Blade Slices politics blog.

The Public Policy Polling survey showed Senator Brown leading Treasurer Mandel by 11 points in January. The pollster's analyst, Tom Jensen, said one reason that the gap is closing is that Mr. Mandel has become much better known over the last three months. His name recognition is now 55 percent, up from 39 percent in January. Senator Brown continues to have "OK but unspectacular approval numbers," Mr. Jensen said.

He said Mr. Brown should be encouraged by a 13-point lead with independents. But he noted that the race has the potential to get closer because there are more undecided Republicans (19 percent) than Democrats (14 percent).

Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, noted that Senator Brown still has a 6-point lead but is short of the 50 percent any incumbent would like to have.

"Meanwhile, voters are getting to know Mandel. In February, 71 percent didn't know enough about him to form an opinion. That 'don't know' number is now 51 percent," Mr. Brown of Quinnipiac said.

In the presidential contest, if Mr. Portman is added to the ticket, President Obama and Mr. Romney would be in a dead heat at 45-45 percent, a slight change over Mr. Obama's 45-44 lead in a matchup with no running mates named.

The 1 percentage point change is not considered statistically significant because the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The same question was asked in February, and the survey found that President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden led 47 percent to 43 percent over a Romney-Portman ticket.

Ohio is the most important swing state to the Republican ticket because no Republican has been elected without carrying the state. Mr. Brown noted that George W. Bush carried Ohio by 2 percentage points to be re-elected in 2004.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,069 registered voters May 2-7.

Contact Tom Troy at tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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