COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich maintains a slim lead over his chief but still largely unknown Democratic rival, but the latest Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday suggests Ohio’s registered voters don’t believe he cares about their needs and problems.
That disconnect could play into Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald’s strategy of presenting Mr. Kasich’s policies as benefiting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
The Republican governor maintains a slim 43 percent to 38 percent lead over the Cuyahoga County executive. That 5-point gap has narrowed from 7 points since November, despite Mr. FitzGerald’s initial fumbles in selecting a running mate.
When asked their opinion of Mr. FitzGerald, 70 percent said they don’t know enough about him to form one.
“That is a double-edged sword for the challenger,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “It indicates he has not made much headway in the past few months, but it provides him an opportunity to make up ground among the vast majority of voters who are unfamiliar with him.”
The poll, conducted between Feb. 12-17, did not ask voters about Larry Ealy, a last-minute Democratic primary challenger to Mr. FitzGerald. He is not only unknown to Ohio voters, but little known in state Democratic circles.
The poll of 1,370 registered voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
Voters give the governor credit for job performance as 51 percent approve and 36 percent disapprove. Forty-six percent say he deserves re-election to 42 percent who disagree. Sixty-one percent view him as a strong leader.
But by a margin of 47 percent to 43 percent, voters say they don’t think he cares about their needs and problems.
“It is clear that Ohioans are responding to Ed FitzGerald because he does not believe the daily financial anxiety Ohio’s families have endured under John Kasich should be the new normal,” FitzGerald campaign manager Nick Buis said.
Mr. Kasich’s support among Republicans is sound; Mr. FitzGerald’s support among Democrats is a little less so. Mr. Kasich tests better among men; Mr. FitzGerald does better among women.
“Governor Kasich has a positive approval rating because his policies are improving Ohio’s economy and budget outlook,” Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said. “Meanwhile, job-hopping, political opportunist Ed FitzGerald has been campaigning for nearly a year, and barely anyone knows who he is, and the non-Democrats who do know him don’t really like him.”
But perhaps most telling is Mr. Kasich’s lead among independent swing voters who say, 43 percent to 31 percent, that they prefer the incumbent governor.
The same poll found that 68 percent of voters favor keeping the death penalty to 26 percent who do not. But support wavers when voters are presented with alternatives of life in prison.
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