Reporting from Los Angeles — Rallying unhappy independents, the Republican challenger in Ohio’s gubernatorial race has opened up a sizable lead over the Democratic incumbent, the latest in a string of tough political polls for Democrats.
John Kasich leads Gov. Ted Strickland 54% to 37%, according to a Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters released Thursday. The poll, based on interviews with 730 likely voters from Sept. 9 to 14, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
Ohio has long had a reputation for being a swing state especially sensitive to the shifting political winds. Democrats did well in 2006 and 2008, but a tough economy could be costing them this midterm election year.
According to the poll, Kasich, a former congressman, is doing exceptionally well with independents, ahead by 55% to 32%.
“Independent voters often decide elections in Ohio, and Kasich leads among the unaffiliated by 23 points. Not only that, but Kasich also does slightly better among Democrats than Strickland does among Republicans,” according to Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“Clearly, Kasich is benefiting from the national anti-incumbent, anti-Democratic wave that seems to be sweeping the country,” Brown said. “Ohio, which is the most important swing state in the country come presidential-election time, is also a good marker for the off-year balloting. If Kasich were to lead a Republican sweep in Ohio, it would be a good indication that the Republican landslide many are predicting nationally might come to fruition.”
By 55% to 32%, voters said the Republican would do better than the incumbent in rebuilding the state’s economy. Kasich also gets the edge, by 54% to 32% in handling the state budget.