COLUMBUS -- Ohioans are warming to Gov. John Kasich as well as to his re-election prospects, suggests a Quinnipiac Poll released today.
As Ohio's economic outlook improves compared to the nation as a whole and more time passes since the contentious fight over collective bargaining in 2011, Mr. Kasich's job approval rating has reached a highest-yet 53 percent.
Thirty-two percent don't like what he's done so far.
“What a difference a few months make,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“Not that long ago, Democrats were licking their lips at the prospect of taking on an unpopular governor who had a disapproval rating in the 50s," he said.
Mr. Kasich's numbers have improved dramatically since the last Quinnipiac Poll in December when he had an approval rating of 42 percent to 35 percent, marking the first time he'd reached positive territory.
But more telling at the time were numbers suggesting Ohioans still didn't want to see him re-elected.
Today's poll suggests that, if the 2014 gubernatorial election were held now, the Republican governor would defeat any of the Democrats most often mentioned to take him on. All of the potential challengers are lesser known than the incumbent.
The poll suggests Mr. Kasich would defeat:
-- Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general and President Obama's current top consumer watchdog, by a vote of 44 percent to 38 percent.
-- Former Akron area congressman Betty Sutton by 45 percent to 38 percent.
-- Cuyahoga County Executive Ed Fitzgerald by 45 percent to 35 percent.
-- Youngstown area Congressman Tim Ryan by 44 percent to 36 percent.
“The good news for the Democrats is that Kasich does not get 50 percent of the votes against any of the four potential candidates," Mr. Brown said. "But he does have consistently good numbers on a number of measurements that indicate strength in the electorate."
Forty-six percent of voters now say Mr. Kasich, a former Columbus area congressman and Fox News political show host, deserves re-election. Thirty-six percent say he does not.
Eighty-one percent of Republicans support re-election. The governor has the support of 17 percent of Democrats and 47 percent of independents.
"When Kasich assumed office, he followed a strategy of taking the political pain early in his administration in hopes that would solve problems and lead to better days down the road," Mr. Brown said. "We’re halfway down that road now and that strategy appears to have been successful so far.”
The poll of 1,011 registered voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, also showed:
-- Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman has a 44 percent to 24 percent job approval rating.
-- Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown has a 51 percent to 33 percent approval rating.
-- The Republican-controlled General Assembly is upside down with 42 percent disapproving of its performance and 39 percent approving.
-- Voters generally approve 45 percent to 39 percent of the way Mr. Kasich is handling his current budget proposal now before lawmakers compared to an even split of 40 percent to 40 percent in December.
-- Voters are more conflicted when asked if that budget is fair to them and others like them. The margin then tightens to 45 percent to 43 percent.