U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, left, and Republican challenger, Ohio treasurer Josh Mandel.
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Josh Mandel has come from behind substantially since deciding to challenge U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown for re-election, but he still needs to close a 4-point gap to pull even, let alone win, a new Blade/Ohio News Organization poll shows.
It’s not impossible in this heated, sometimes nasty, and unquestionably expensive race. And the poll’s 3.1 percentage-point margin of error could mean Mr. Mandel is closer than, or further from, that 4-point lag than it may seem.
But partisans have already lined up firmly for their parties’ respective candidates — 90 percent of Republicans for Mr. Mandel and 91 percent of Democrats for Mr. Brown. And when it comes to independent voters, they prefer Mr. Brown, the Democrat, by a 16-point margin.
Overall, Mr. Brown leads Mr. Mandel, Ohio’s state treasurer and a Republican by 51-47 percent, the new poll shows. In addition, 2 percent of likely voters said they did not know which candidate they would back in the election, now only eight days away.
Mr. Mandel was 7 points behind in the previous Blade/Ohio News Organization poll in September. The newest poll’s result on the Ohio race is consistent with other public polls in the past week.
The closeness of the Senate race, and the fact that the presidential contest appears tied in Ohio, as reported on Sunday, stand in sharp contrast to another question to be settled Nov. 6. Voters appear ready to defeat state Issue 2, the proposed change to Ohio’s methods for drawing congressional and state legislative boundaries, the poll shows.
Fifty-three percent of Ohio likely voters said they would vote against that state constitutional amendment, compared with 28 percent who said they would vote for it and 19 percent who were not sure.
More telling was the fact that 24 percent said they have heard nothing at all about the issue.
Limited advertising has been drowned out by nonstop candidate commercials.
“It would be difficult for any issue campaigns — for or against — to get messages through to voters in a year where the airwaves are dominated by presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns that are being so closely watched nationally,” said Eric Rademacher, co-director of the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research.
The institute conducted the poll for The Blade and other Ohio newspapers, including The Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch, and Cincinnati Enquirer.
If the news was bad for Issue 2 supporters, it was especially good for Gov. John Kasich, who doesn’t face re-election until 2014.
In 2011, the Republican governor was enmeshed in a battle to redefine public workers’ union rights and fringe benefits, and although he defined it as a matter of necessary austerity, voters rejected his plans in a referendum last November.
Yet Mr. Kasich’s popularity has climbed back, with a 56 percent voter approval rating in this poll.
That’s up from 52 percent in an Ohio News Organization poll in September.
More importantly, 52 percent in this poll said he deserved a second term — a nod of confidence that includes 27 percent of Democrats.
Bruce Meyer, 46, a sales director from Akron, is a voter who did not believe in Mr. Kasich when the Republican was elected in 2010. Mr. Meyer said Mr. Kasich’s former job, as a managing director at Lehman Brothers, the investment bank that collapsed, made him leery.
“I thought the last thing Ohio should be doing was to put a stockbroker in charge of the state,” Mr. Meyer said. “That being said, Ohio hasn’t fallen apart” and “certainly is headed in the right direction.”
Mr. Meyer said he will consider voting for Mr. Kasich in two years.
The newspaper poll also asked likely voters whether they thought casino gambling would turn out to be good or bad for Ohio. Approved by voters in 2009, casinos have now opened in Cleveland, Toledo, and Columbus, and one is under construction in Cincinnati.
The view so far is mixed: 58 percent said casinos will be “a mix of both good and bad for Ohio.”
The Mandel-Brown race for U.S. Senate is one of the most expensive in the country. Not even counting money raised by Mr. Mandel, legally separate outside groups have now spent $27.5 million on ads in hopes of ousting Mr. Brown, according to Mr. Brown’s campaign. Outside groups opposing Mr. Mandel have put $14.5 million into ads against him, not counting what Mr. Brown has spent, according to Mr. Mandel’s campaign.
The first-term senator, who served seven terms in the U.S. House, helped pass the federal-stimulus package, President Obama’s health-care reform law and the Dodd-Frank financial-reform bill, measures decried by conservatives as overkill and bad for the economy. Mr. Brown, a proud supporter of the auto industry bailout, defends these measures as necessary antidotes to curb abuses of big banks, insurers, and anti-regulation Republicans.
Based on the poll, it appears that Mr. Mandel’s support draws heavily on his status as the anti-Brown candidate.
Of those who said they will vote for him, only 36 percent said they strongly favor him. An additional 34 percent said they’ll vote for him but have reservations, and 30 percent said they favor him because he is not Mr. Brown.
As for Mr. Brown’s voters, a bare majority, 51 percent, said they strongly favor him. A further 27 percent said they favor him with reservations, and 21 percent said they favor him because they dislike Mr. Mandel.
Mr. Brown is supported by at least 50 percent of likely voters in every region of the state except southwest Ohio, where 53 percent said they would vote for Mr. Mandel.
The poll surveyed 1,015 likely voters, reached by landlines and cell phones between Oct. 18 and Tuesday.