By Jim Ellis
Sept. 10, 2021 — The London-based Redfield & Wilton Strategies international survey research firm tested electorates in several American states at the end of August, and today we look at their Ohio results. With a major open Senate campaign and a Republican governor seeking re-election in 2022, the Buckeye State is once again a national political focal point for the coming political year.The Redfield & Wilton poll (Aug. 20-24; 1,200 likely Ohio voters) finds the Republican Senate candidates performing adequately opposite US Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Warren/Youngstown), who, at this early stage, has become the Democrats’ consensus statewide Senate contender.
Former state treasurer and 2012 US Senate candidate Josh Mandel (R) holds a 51-47 percent ballot test lead over Rep. Ryan within the sample segment who are self-identified as likely 2022 general election voters. Author J.D. Vance (R) largely falls into a dead heat with Ryan, trailing 37-36 percent, as does former Ohio Republican Party chair Jane Timken who places within two points of the congressman, 38-36 percent.
In the governor’s race, incumbent Republican Mike DeWine, who former Rep. Jim Renacci is challenging in the GOP primary from the ideological right, looks to be in strong shape against potential Democratic opponents. If Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley were the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Gov. DeWine would post a 46-27 percent advantage. Should Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley become the Democratic nominee, he would trail the governor by a slightly larger 47-25 percent spread.
Generally, the Ohio polling pattern leans Democratic in the early going and then closes in the Republican candidates’ favor, while consistently understating GOP strength.
In the 2020 presidential election, Ohio polls in July of the election year were returning Joe Biden leads of 4-8 percentage points before former President Trump would rebound to score a mean average 1.0 percent polling lead close to election day, and then win the state going away with an eight-point margin, 53-45 percent. In 2016, the pattern was similar. In the July-September period, Hillary Clinton held leads of between 4 and 7 percentage points only to see the average favor Trump by a 2.2 percent spread. He would win the state 51-43 percent.
The same pattern occurred for Sen. Rob Portman (R) in 2016 and was present to a degree against Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in 2018. In June through September of that year, certain polls found former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) leading incumbent Portman with a 3-6 point edge. As the race closed, Sen. Portman established an average 18-point lead and won 58-37 percent.
Even in a Democratic victory, the polling trend favoring Democrats early and then closing for the GOP toward election day was again present. During June-September of 2018, Sen. Brown held leads between 13-17 points. Going into the election, his polling average had slipped to 11 points, and he only won with a 6.4 percent margin.
Keeping this pattern in mind and then looking at the underlying Biden job approval numbers in the R&W poll suggests that even today, the GOP candidates are poised for a stronger finish than the current results yield. Overall, the Redfield & Wilton figures point to a 40:46 percent favorable to unfavorable presidential approval ratio for Biden, which isn’t particularly bad particularly in a state that the subject did not win. The underlying numbers, however, point to a much greater negative.