COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich’s move to expand eligibility for Medicaid coverage under the federal health-care law has cost him support within his Republican base, but a majority of Ohioans still believe it was a good idea, according to a poll released Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the governor’s relatively unknown Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, has cut the governor’s lead by half to 7 points since the last poll in June. Of 1,361 registered voters questioned between Nov. 19 and 24, 44 percent said they would vote for Mr. Kasich compared with 37 percent for Mr. FitzGerald.
That compares with a 14-point gap, 47 percent to 33 percent, in June. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
“It will take a lot of money and time for the Cuyahoga County executive to reach those voters, but introducing himself to them is his job one,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, which released the poll. “While FitzGerald is trying to define himself, Kasich can be expected to spend a pretty penny trying to negatively define the Democrat.”
Fifty-one percent of voters overall liked Mr. Kasich’s move to partner with the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage to about 275,000 Ohioans, mostly adults without dependent children. But 40 percent did not.
Not surprisingly, support for the expansion is strongest among Democrats, 74 percent to 16 percent. The key swing independent vote also likes it, 51 percent to 40 percent.
But Mr. Kasich’s Republican base firmly dislikes it, 65 percent to 28 percent. Some conservatives have talked instead about supporting expected Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl, a former Republican state representative from Bowling Green.
This poll did not specifically measure what impact Mr. Earl’s presence on the ballot might have. Two percent of voters said they’ll support a generic third candidate, while 4 percent said they won’t vote. Fifteen percent remain undecided.
“It shows the governor is in a very good position with a 52 to 33 (percent) job approval,” Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said. “In particular, voters approve of the economy. When you compare that to where (Democratic Gov. Ted) Strickland was four years ago, he was tied with Kasich, his challenger at the time. Strickland had an approval rating of 45 to 33. Most importantly, voters disapproved of his economy, 33 percent to 52 percent.”
The momentum is on Mr. FitzGerald’s side, said his campaign spokesman, Matt McGrath. “It explains why Kasich and Republicans have been so active in trying to keep Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl off the ballot,” he said. “This was a two-way poll, and it obviously shows the margin has been cut in half. ... Republicans know how vulnerable the governor is.”
The governor’s decision to expand Medicaid to add an estimated 275,000 mostly working poor adults to the rolls under the Affordable Care Act has led 23 percent of voters overall to say they’re now less likely to support his re-election.
That compares with 19 percent who say they’re now more likely to vote for him. Fifty-four percent say it won’t make a difference.
Contact Jim Provance at email@example.com or 614-221-0496.