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Published: Monday, 8/29/2005

Most Toledoans say governor should resign, poll reports

BY JIM TANKERSLEY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

More than half of likely Toledo voters - 54.6 percent and including two out of five Republicans - say Gov. Bob Taft should resign over his recent convictions on criminal ethics charges, a poll commissioned by The Blade and WTVG-TV, Channel 13 shows.

Less than 40 percent of respondents to the Zogby International survey of 500 likely voters in the city's Sept. 13 primary election said Mr. Taft should stay in office after he pleaded no contest this month to four misdemeanor counts of failing to report gifts on state financial disclosure forms.

About three quarters rated Mr. Taft's gubernatorial performance as "fair" or "poor."

Mr. Taft is a Republican, and Toledo, which is heavily Democratic, is hardly his support base. But Democrats are not alone in criticizing him.

Forty percent of the respondents from Mr. Taft's own party said the governor should step down, and 70 percent rated his tenure "fair" or "poor."

Independent voters slammed Mr. Taft even harder than Democrats.

More than 60 percent said he should resign. More than 80 percent gave him low marks as governor.

"He may still be governor," said John Zogby, president and CEO of the polling firm. "But he's lost a lot of political capital here."

Mr. Taft has vowed to stay in office. Some lawmakers in both parties have asked him publicly to resign.

A coalition of liberal and conservative grass-roots groups launched a Web site, Moveontaft.org, last week to increase the pressure. Legislative leaders so far have resisted impeaching him.

Mr. Taft does not govern by poll numbers, his spokesman said yesterday, asking voters who want the governor to resign to place his ethics convictions in context.

"You'd hope that people would keep in mind that the governor admits he made a mistake," the spokesman, Mark Rickel, said. "He accepted responsibility, he apologized, and he's moving forward."

Democrats statewide are hopeful they'll get a boost at the ballot next year from Mr. Taft's ethics problems and a broader scandal in the Republican Party that led to their exposure.

But a poll question shows the so-called "Coingate" affair, in which Republican fund-raiser Tom Noe stands accused of stealing money that officials from the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation invested in his rare-coin business, is mostly hurting the GOP among people who weren't likely to vote for it in the first place.

About a third of respondents said the scandal would make them less likely to vote for Republicans, including about a half of all Democrats. About a quarter of independents and 6 percent of Republicans said they'd be less likely to vote GOP.

Mr. Zogby said it's hard to tell much from the numbers about any lasting effects of the scandal. "This is the sort of thing, I think, that leaves a bad taste and opens a door for a Democrat. But it suggests it won't entirely taint Republicans," he said.

In Toledo, party label doesn't equal popularity. About 21 percent of respondents rated Mr. Taft's performance as "good" or "excellent." About 25 percent gave those ratings to Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, a Democrat.

The poll has a 4.5 percent margin of error, which makes Mr. Taft and Mr. Ford statistically tied in the category.

Contact Jim Tankersley at: jtankersley@theblade.com or 419-724-6134.



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