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COLUMBUS -- The latest Quinnipiac Poll released today suggests that Gov. John Kasich still struggles to connect with Ohio registered voters as 47 percent say he doesn't care about their needs and problems.
The Republican governor maintains a slim 43 percent to 38 percent lead over his chief Democratic opponent, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, who remains a largely unknown commodity to voters more than eight months out from the Nov. 4 election.
"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 and 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 Kasich-FitzGerald race tightened slightly since the last poll in November with just 5 points separating the candidates compared to 7. The race could be even tighter than that as 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 his job performance with 51 percent approving and 36 percent disapproving. Forty-six percent believe he deserves re-election to 42 percent who disagree. Sixty-one percent characterize 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. That is something Democrats have hoped to exploit, as Mr. FitzGerald attempts to make the case that the governor's policies have benefited the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. Democrats have constantly reminded voters of Senate Bill 5, the Republican-backed law clipping the wings of the public employee unions that voters soundly rejected at the polls in 2011.
"Voters see Gov. John Kasich in a more favorable light when it comes to his personal characteristics than his handling of issues," Mr. Brown said. "They give him high grades on leadership and positive ratings on trustworthiness and good judgment, though not so much on understanding the problems of average folks."
Mr. Kasich's support among Republicans is sound while Mr. FitzGerald's support among Democrats is a little less so. Perhaps more telling is that Mr. Kasich leads among independent voters by a margin of 43 percent to 31 percent.
The poll also found that voters continue to support the death penalty despite problems experienced in some recent executions as the state experiments in the wake of national shortages in certain execution drugs.
Sixty-eight percent favor keeping the death penalty to 26 percent who do not. But support wavers a bit when voters are presented with alternatives of life in prison--with or without parole.