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COLUMBUS -- Ohioans are divided over whether President Obama deserves a second term, but they'd rather give him one than elect one of the Republican alternatives presented to them so far, a poll released Thursday shows.
The poll by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University also shows that Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown would defeat both candidates currently seeking the Republican nomination for his seat if the 2012 election were held today.
With Democrats strongly behind the President and Republicans even more strongly opposing him, Mr. Obama's fate in the critical battleground state of Ohio may come down to independents, 51 percent of whom disapprove of his performance. Forty-two percent approve.
"Voters in the key independent bloc are against Obama when it comes to his job performance and whether he deserves a second term, but when he is matched against a real live Republican, they are slightly in his corner," said Peter A. Brown, the polling institute's director.
"No Republican presidential candidate has emerged in the eyes of Ohio Republicans," he said. "To say the race is wide open in Ohio is an understatement."
Fifty percent of the 1,659 registered voters polled between July 12 and 18 said they disapprove of the President's performance. That's up from 45 percent in May, 2011. Forty-six percent approve with the rest undecided.
They're nearly evenly split -- 46 percent say "yes" and 47 percent say "no" -- as to whether he deserves a second term.
Still, the poll gives him a lead of 4 percentage points in a potential matchup with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 12 points over Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 13 points over Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann, and 16 points over former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
In the GOP primary, Mr. Romney, Ms. Palin, and Ms. Bachmann would battle it out for Ohio's nomination. Of 563 Republicans questioned, 16 percent preferred Mr. Romney, 15 percent preferred Mrs. Palin, and 11 percent would pick Ms. Bachmann out of a list of 11 announced and potential candidates.
But 28 percent said they aren't ready to make any choice yet.
In a memo circulated to reporters, John Gibson, the Republican National Committee's regional political director, said Mr. Obama has problems on the road to the White House that goes through the political swing state of Ohio.
"President Obama flipped nine states George W. Bush carried in his 2004 re-election, including Ohio," he said. "Since his election in 2008, the President's support has deteriorated dramatically both nationally and in Ohio. President Obama is also losing support among local Democrats and unions, both major factors in his 2008 election.
"His path to re-election must go back through Ohio, and this must be concerning for White House and Democratic officials," Mr. Gibson said. "The 2012 election will be about one thing, the economy, and Ohio voters can't afford another year, let alone another term of the Barack Obama economy."
The wider poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.4 percentage points so the Obama-Romney matchup would be considered a statistical tie. The smaller sample of Republican voters for that primary matchup carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percent, putting Mr. Romney, Mrs. Palin, and Ms. Bachmann in a statistical tie for the primary election.
The numbers didn't surprise Jim Ruvolo of Toledo, a Democratic political consultant from Toledo and a former Ohio Democratic Party chairman.
"It reminds me of 1995," he said. "Bill Clinton's numbers weren't that great, but we had a Republican House doing things that the public didn't approve of. It made him look more presidential and more trying to compromise when they were digging in and creating roadblocks.
"The economy stinks," Mr. Ruvolo said. "You blame three people for that -- the mayor, the governor, and the President. We saw that in the gubernatorial election. Voters said Ted Strickland was doing a fair job, but they elected somebody else. Obama still has a problem with the economy, but if the perception is that Republicans are too ideological and won't work with him, then the Republican nominee for president is in big trouble."
The Quinnipiac Poll shows that Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel of Lyndhurst is the preferred candidate over former state Sen. Kevin Coughlin of Cuyahoga Falls for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate next May. But 46 percent of Republicans polled haven't made up their minds.
Mr. Mandel would get 35 percent of the primary vote as of today compared to 12 percent for Mr. Coughlin.
Both, however, trail first-term Democratic incumbent Senator Brown. He would get 49 percent of the vote if the election were held today to Mr. Mandel's 34 percent with 17 percent saying they prefer another candidate, wouldn't vote, or haven't made up their minds.
Support for Mr. Brown is up 4 percentage points since May while support for Mr. Mandel has climbed 3 points.
In a Brown-Coughlin matchup, Mr. Brown would win 50 percent to 32 percent. Both solidified their bases of support since May with Mr. Brown up 6 percentage points and Mr. Coughlin up 4 points.
Contact Jim Provance at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-221-0496.