By Jim Ellis
June 30, 2021 — Ohio Coal Association chairman Mike Carey (R) released his internal Fabrizio, Lee & Associates survey on Tuesday, which posts him to a big lead for the Aug. 3 special congressional primary in his state’s vacant 15th District. Carey’s advantage widely expands when the Republican primary electorate is aware that he is being endorsed by former president, Donald Trump.
According to the Fabrizio Lee poll (June 23-24; 400 likely OH-15 special Republican primary voters, live interviews), Carey would maintain a 44-10-9-8-5 percent advantage over state Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Lancaster), former state Rep. Ron Hood, state Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Fayette County), and state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), respectively, among those claiming to be familiar with the campaign and candidates.
The original ballot test gave Carey a 20-9 percent lead over Rep. LaRe, who has the backing of resigned Rep. Steve Stivers (R) and is the beneficiary of the former congressman spending some of his substantial leftover campaign war chest as a support independent expenditure. Hood and Sen. Peterson trial with seven percent apiece, followed by Sen. Kunze’s six percent preference. The remaining six candidates individually garner three percent or less.
When all respondents are then informed that the former president has endorsed Carey, however, the candidate’s lead grows to a whopping 60-8-7-7-6 percent margin over Hood, LaRe, Peterson, and Kunze, respectively.
The initial ballot test also identified 44 percent of the respondents who said they are undecided about who to support in the special election. When informed of the Trump endorsement, the undecided segment then broke 46-3 percent for Carey over LaRe. Peterson and Kunze each gained one percent support, with the remainder divided among the minor candidates. This largely accounts for the big swing toward Carey when comparing the initial ballot test to the aided responses.
The poll was conducted during the buildup to Trump’s first public rally since he left the White House, an event held in rural Wellington, OH on Saturday about 40 miles due west of Akron that drew close to 20,000 people according to news estimates.
The rally focus, however, was not the open special election, but rather former Trump aide Max Miller’s 2022 Republican primary challenge to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Rocky River) who is one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s impeachment after the Jan. 6 revolt at the US Capitol. The pre-rally publicity throughout the state certainly drew more attention to former president Trump at the time the respondents were answering the poll questions. Therefore, the Carey margin could be somewhat inflated as a result.
The polling sample of 400 likely special election Republican primary voters consisted of 77 percent self-identified Republicans, 18 percent Independents, and two percent Democrats. A total of 82 percent described themselves as conservative. Ohio holds an open primary with voters who do not register by political party, choosing the primary in which they want to participate. The primaries are partisan, however, and each party will send a nominee to the special general election on Nov. 2. Early voting commences on July 7.
It remains to be seen if Carey can raise the necessary funds to publicize the Trump endorsement to the GOP electorate. With former Rep. Stivers helping LaRe with an independent expenditure, and Carey facing three additional current or former state legislators, each of whom have their own political financial base, it is probable that the race will grow closer as we approach election day.
There is little doubt, however, that Carey is the leader at a time when early voting is about to begin. It is also clear that Trump’s involvement in this contest has changed the campaign’s dynamics. Whether his endorsement continues to carry a transformational influence at the time of the election remains to be seen.