In the past month, Strickland’s internal polling has tracked most of public opinion polls.  Also, note that this is the only poll we’ve seen that actually included all four candidates in the race.  (Mr. Spisak, they show you polling better than the Green Party candidate got in 2006.  You might break 2%, an all-time best for a statewide Green Party candidate.  No snark intended, seriously.)

Our Week 4 tracking poll, conducted October 3-5, 2010, shows Governor Ted Strickland at 46 percent and Republican John Kasich at 42 percent, a 4-point lead for Strickland.  The Strickland lead expands in the four-way vote as Kasich’s unfavorable ratings have increased and those voters who do not support Strickland are increasingly open to alternatives.  In the four-way vote, Strickland leads with 44 percent support while alternative candidates sap Kasich’s support and leave him with just 37 percent.  The Green and Libertarian candidates draw 2 percent each with 15 percent undecided.

Strickland’s favorability ratings stand at 47 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable.  For the first time in our polling, Kasich’s unfavorable ratings exceed his favorable ratings.  Currently, 34 percent of voters are unfavorable toward Kasich and only 32 percent are favorable. 

Strickland has a stronger and broader base than Kasich.  Seventy-six (76) percent of Democrats are favorable toward Strickland, as are 21 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of independents.  In contrast, a bare 51 percent majority of Republican voters are favorable toward Kasich, as are just 15 percent of Democrats and 33 percent of independents.  Kasich still leads narrowly among independents in the two-way match up, but his lead is clearly vulnerable given Strickland’s rising favorable ratings and the drop in Kasich favorability among independent voters.

On our trait comparisons, we continue double-digit advantages on being for working people (15 points), putting the middle class first (14 points) and improving education (12 points), and being trustworthy (10 points).  We now lead (by 1 point) on job creation.  Kasich leads on putting the wealthy first (by 21 points) and on support for outsourcing jobs overseas (15 points), both negative traits, and by a smaller margin on keeping taxes down.

The enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans is rapidly closing.  More Democratic than Republican voters say they plan to vote early both in the mail and in person (a 10 point gap; two percent of our sample volunteered they had already voted).  On our 10-point scale, enthusiasm has risen to an average of 7.25.  It is still higher among Republicans than Democrats but lowest among independents.  One of the biggest gains in enthusiasm since last week was among union members.

Some of the polling data, frankly, is contrary to what we’ve seen in the public polling, especially when it comes to independents and favorability of the candidates.

However, those are just a few exception to the general rule.  Like polling nationally, Strickland’s campaign sees the same trends and numbers in the so-called “enthusiasm gap.”  We have seen public polling showing Strickland’s image improving while Kasich’s deteriorated rapidly.  The fact that Kasich has spent all week on “taxes” tells me they’ve seen their advantage on that issue disappear as well (Kasich’s campaign today started asking their supporters to sign a “petition” demanding that Strickland take the same “no new taxes” pledge Kasich signed, but has already created two massive exceptions, either of which swallows the pledge itself whole.)

Splitting on taxes and job creation is not a good sign for Kasich this close to the election.

Could John Kasich really lose five points to the Libertarian candidate?  Absolutely.  The Tea Party is a Libertarian movement… and there is considerable chatter in the Ohio gun rights forum of voting Libertarian this year as a protest to Kasich’s anti-gun record.

Which is probably why Ted Strickland yesterday started airing this ad: