Kasich Falls Into Tie in Ohio Governor’s Race

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been, possibly until now, performing well in his early re-election bid. A new poll taken for the Ohio Democratic Party, however, suggests the race has tightened to the point of being a virtual tie.

Public Policy Polling (April 14-15; 1,050 registered Ohio voters), surveying for the ODP, finds the governor falling into a tie at 44 percent with Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald (D), but the study may be slightly skewed.

Looking at the PPP cross-tabs allows us to glean some key information. Most notably, the poll skews female because women comprise 53 percent of the respondent pool compared to their 51 percent share of the Ohio population at large. Since the female vote tips toward FitzGerald, the overall ballot test is likely distorted by a slight margin.

The poll’s gender segmentation is significant because the divisions here are not as stark as found in most studies of this race and others. Here we find that women break only 45-43 percent in FitzGerald’s favor, far closer than a normal Democrat-Republican split. This should be good news for Gov. Kasich.

The male segment, however, is also performing abnormally. While women tend to break for Democrats in greater numbers than suggested in this data, conversely, men gravitate more strongly toward Republicans. But PPP only detects a 46-44 percent male split in Kasich’s favor. Therefore, according to this survey, the governor is over-performing with women and under-performing among men.

Other segmentation appears normal. The FitzGerald minority share is strong, as one would expect for a big city Democrat. The African-American segment breaks 74-11 percent for the presumed Democratic nominee, which is not surprising. Among whites, the governor takes 51 percent as compared to FitzGerald’s 39 percent. Therefore, the Democratic challenge is to spike the minority voter participation figure as close to the presidential turnout model as possible.

In terms of party breakdown, Kasich is receiving 82 percent of the Republican vote, whereas FitzGerald attracts a similar 79 percent among Democrats, normal numbers for both men in relation to other polls. Also as expected, FitzGerald does best with the youngest voters, while Kasich’s performance grows with age. The governor’s strongest segment is the 65-plus age group, where he scores a 51-39 percent share.

While the survey’s aggregate number portends a tie between the two candidates, Gov. Kasich actually has a slight advantage. As described above, the sample skews slightly toward FitzGerald, but Kasich sees that his strongest segments represent those people who have the greatest propensity to vote.

As we all know, Ohio is one of the most significant swing states within the American electorate. Many people believe that Gov. Kasich is a budding 2016 Republican presidential candidate. Should he successfully win re-election, a two-term Ohio governor would have a strong pedigree in a national campaign, one that national Republicans might have a hard time overlooking. Hence, the 2014 Ohio governor’s campaign is a race of major national significance.

The Ohio primary is May 6, but both Kasich and FitzGerald are consensus candidates within their respective political party structures and will sail through to their respective nominations.

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