Despite an onslaught of more than $18 million in outside money to knock him from the U.S. Senate, Democrat Sherrod Brown holds a 7-point lead over GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel in a new Blade/Ohio Newspaper Organization poll.
Mr. Brown’s margin of 52 percent to 45 percent among likely voters is bolstered by a 14-point advantage with women.
“Sherrod Brown is a really smart guy,” said Mary Mynatt, 61, a retired state employee from Grove City.
“I think he does a good job in Congress.
“I just have to contrast him with his opponent, who seems to be politically motivated. [Mr. Mandel’s] ads just drive me crazy. [Mr. Mandel is] kind of full of himself. He’s wet behind the ears, he kind of reminds me of a little squawky bird.”
But Columbus lawyer Gary L. Jones, 74, plans to vote for Mr. Mandel because of Mr. Jones’ strong dislike for Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Mr. Jones acknowledged that Mr. Mandel has been able to remain competitive because of the cash pouring into a campaign that “has been nasty on both sides.”
OHIO NEWSPAPER ORGANIZATION
The participating papers are:
The Blade, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, The Columbus Dispatch, the Akron Beacon Journal, The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Dayton Daily News, The (Canton) Repository, and The (Youngstown) Vindicator.
The huge influx of “dark money” — so dubbed because most of the donors are secret — is helping to muddy the possible outcome.
“The Brown-Mandel race may turn out to be one of the harder races to handicap this fall,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati, which conducted the poll.
“The saturation of Ohio with presidential campaign ads has made it very difficult for the U.S. Senate candidates to get their messages to voters, and voter patience with campaign ads is dwindling,"he said.
“Name recognition, incumbency, and funding from outside groups against both candidates may factor in to how the race unfolds in the last month and a half of the campaign.”
Although Gov. John Kasich does not face re-election for two more years, Ohio voters are apparently revising early opinions of the Republican.
Last year he made several ill-conceived remarks and supported highly unpopular Senate Bill 5, which would have greatly reduced public employee collective-bargaining power.
He now wins approval from 52 percent of Ohioans for his job performance, while 41 percent disapprove.
“At first I thought he was a rebel without a cause. He was a real storm trooper when he got in there,” said telemarketer Linda Rae Brown, 65, of Cleveland.
“Now I like the guy. At first I thought he was a bit of a bully, but now I like him. He’s getting things done.”
Marlin Griffin, 40, a Democrat from Gallipolis, who works at AEP’s Gavin Power Plant, is no fan of Mr. Kasich.
“All Republican governors try to, first thing off the bat, bully folks and I don’t think that's how politics should be done,” Mr. Griffin said.
“You should work across the aisle. I'm not saying your values should change, but you should have the decency to work across the aisle with folks.”
But he said the governor has toned down since last year and has helped the state avoid debt.
“I don't know how long that's going to last,” Mr. Griffin said.
“We’ll see after this election if he's going to try to go after unions or teachers or someone else.”
Another who has changed his position is Robert G. Merkle, 82, of Springfield, who is retired as physicist and aerospace engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton.
“I didn’t vote for him but I’ve been surprised because I thought they would hack away at the benefits for the poor and disabled because that’s usually what happens,” Mr. Merkle said.
“Instead, he cut the state aid to the cities and the schools. If he wants to shrink government, that’s a good thing because all these matching funds local governments tend to regard as free money. And they use it for bigger and larger programs.
“Kasich is one who says we should shrink government.”
But the governor’s push to keep roughly half a billion dollars in the state’s rainy-day fund instead of using it to restore state budget cuts to schools and other local governments is less popular.
In the poll, 54 percent want the money used to patch the budget reductions, with 39 percent content to let the money stay in the state fund.
“He cut a lot of programs to get there [balancing the state budget] and now people are suffering. What is he going to with that 500 million? Is he going to put it out there to help people?” Mr. Griffin wondered.
The also poll asked voters about state Issue 2 — which would revamp the way Ohio’s congressional and legislative districts are drawn — and Mr. Kasich’s proposal to increase fees on oil and gas drilling and use the revenue to reduce Ohioans’ state income taxes.
However, too few people knew about either proposal to provide meaningful results: 54 percent said they had heard “nothing at all” about the Kasich proposal, while 35 percent said the same about Issue 2, whose ballot language was significantly changed earlier this month.
Elyria resident Mark Ball, 48, who is on disability after working as a shipping/receiving clerk, said if the severance tax on drilling is increased, “I think he should put that money toward schools, education. Any money Kasich can save the state, he should put it toward education.”
Mr. Griffin was among those who said he hasn’t studied the redistricting proposal but said he opposes politicians changing voting rules for their benefit.
Two local political chairmen differed over the meaning of the poll.
Lucas County Republican Chairman Jon Stainbrook said there’s enough time for Mr. Mandel to pull ahead of Mr. Brown even if the 7-point margin is accurate, and said Mr. Mandel's campaign is well funded.
“Sounds like he needs to reach out to the demographics he did not poll well with,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “It’s still up in the air.”
He also noted the improved performance approval rating for Governor Kasich.
“There were pennies in the rainy-day fund and John Kasich has turned that around to where there’s a surplus, and they’re finally giving him credit, credit where credit is due,” Mr. Stainbrook said.
Democratic Party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said Senator Brown’s votes to save the auto industry in the 2009 bailout are part of the reason he is ahead in the polls.
“I think he’s ahead by 4 or 5 points and I think that’s because he has done a very good job of representing the working people,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said.
The telephone poll – which used both land lines and cell phones – of 861 likely voters across Ohio from Sept. 13 through Tuesday has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.
ABOUT OHNO: The Ohio Newspaper Organization is a cooperative comprised of the eight largest newspapers in the state. Participating papers are The Blade, the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Columbus Dispatch, Akron Beacon Journal, Cincinnati Enquirer, Dayton Daily News, The (Canton) Repository and the (Youngstown) Vindicator.