The good news for Governor John Kasich?  He’s closed the gap by five points between his disapproval and approval ratings, and for the first time ever he’s shown actual movement in his approval rating.  The bad news?  His agenda is a political lodestone around his neck pulling and keeping him down. This morning, the latest Quinnipiac Poll was released showed Governor Kasich’s approval rating rose 8 points from March (and January) to 38%.  However, his disapproval rating also rose three points to 49%.  So, Kasich hasn’t really started to change minds as much as for the first time in his Administration he was able to get previously undecided voters to approve his performance.

A.  You call this a “bounce?”

Disapproval from independents and female voters, as a result has softened.  However both these demographic groups still largely disapprove of the job Kasich is doing with Independents at 37%-47% (from 25% to 49% in March) and female voters at 33%-51% (from 25%-48%).  Among male voters, Kasich saw virtually no change in his disapproval rating, and a seven-point jump in his approval rating.  Still, when you consider that shortly before the election, Quinnipiac showed Independents favored Kasich 59%-32%, his “improvement” still shows a quick reversal of fortune with independents since the election.

B.  Republican “buyer’s remorse” and the new enthusiasm gap in Ohio

As was the case in March, Democrats are far more united in their disapproval of Kasich (15%-73%, a 58-point margin) than Republicans are united in approval.  (66%-22%, a 44-point margin).  This fourteen-point “enthusiasm gap” is also a complete reversal from the election when Republicans were more united behind Kasich than Democrats were behind Governor Strickland.

I haven’t fully researched it, but I cannot recall a first-term Statewide official getting nearly a quarter of his own party within the first six months of his term, yet that’s what Kasich has.  In other words, “buyer’s remorse” over Kasich isn’t limited to just independents, it’s members of his own party, too.

C.  Political geography a problem for Republicans in ‘12

John Kasich doesn’t hit 50% approval anywhere in Ohio.  Not in Southwestern Ohio (44%-42%)  or in West Central Ohio  (47%-44%), which are traditional GOP strongholds in Ohio.  The good news is that he’s made substantial improvement in these areas, in March he was actually under water there.  The bad news is that he’s still underperforming there.    The worst news is that he’s terribly underwater in the Southeast (31%-61%), Central (37%-58%), Northwest (32%-51%), and Northeast (36%-47%).  In other words, where all the competitive House and Senate races are going to be next year.

House Minority Leader Armond Buddish can slap a picture of the Republican incumbent with a picture of Kasich, mail it to any battleground district, and he’s instantly energized his base, tapped into Independent discontent with Kasich, and perhaps even picked up a few Republican votes for the Democratic candidate.  That’s what ‘12 could be if this current environment pretty much stays where’s its been all year.  Even worse, John Kasich is not even much of a rally cry in districts that are considered GOP strongholds.

D. Ohioans aren’t buying the “Jobs Budget.”

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Ohioans no more approve of John Kasich’s handling of the budget now (35%-53%) than they did in March (31%-51%).  With his background as former House Budget Chairman in the 1990s and Mary Taylor’s role as the State Auditor, the budget was supposed to be the strongest selling point for the Kasich-Taylor campaign.  They hammered Strickland over the State budget, creating a myth that Ohio was facing an $8 billion deficit it now admits (buried in budgetary language) never really existed in the first place.

So how’s the budgetary dynamic duo doing with Ohio voters?  Essentially, no better than the worst marks Governor Strickland got on his handling of the budget.

Most Ohioans see through the political marketing and largely believe that Kasich’s budget will have no affect (26%), or worse hurt job creation in Ohio (33%).  Admittedly, a bare plurality of 34% believe the “Jobs Budget” will help Ohio’s economy, but that’s largely due to the fact that 58% of Republicans believe it will help.  Independents are largely split and Democrats equally believe that it will hurt the economy.  In the end, Governor Kasich has a “Jobs Budget” when just as many Ohioans believe it will hurt Ohio’s economy than help it.  That’s not what the Kasich Administration was hoping.

E.  No matter how you asked it, SB 5 appears doomed to a November repeal.

The most interesting thing in the March Quinnipiac Poll was that it found that if you used the term “collective bargaining rights” as opposed to just “collective bargaining,” opposition to SB 5 went from a modest seven-point margin to a whopping nineteen-point margin.  This suggested that the pro-SB 5 campaign had a fighting chance if they could frame collective bargaining as something other than a “right.”

Well, that window has already closed.  When Quinnipiac asked the split question again in May, they found no material difference in the results, Ohioans oppose SB 5 by a 12-13 point margin either way you ask them.  This means that overall opposition to SB 5 has cooled some, but that voters now largely imply the word “right” into the term “collective bargaining.   With a bare 51%-38% majority saying they oppose SB 5, it’s not surprising then that Ohioans largely support a referendum to repeal it this November by a 54%-36% margin.

56% of independents favor repealing SB 5.  33% of Republicans do52% of WHITE, BORN AGAIN EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS SUPPORT REPEALING SB 5.

This led the “We Are Ohio” campaign to release this statement:

"The Quinnipiac Poll confirms what we are seeing on the ground in cities all across Ohio, working and middle class families support repealing SB 5," said Melissa Fazekas, spokeswoman for We Are Ohio. "Over 10,000 volunteers are gathering signatures to support employee rights and worker safety. This unprecedented level of bipartisan support will help ensure Ohioans have the opportunity to make their voices heard in November by exercising a citizen’s veto."

F. “Bill Seitz’s Revenge?”

Any Republican or conservative who believes that State Senator Bill Seitz’s (R-Cincinnati) “strayed” in his opposition have a problem with Quinnipiac they have to resolve first.  Because according to Quinnipiac Southwestern Ohioans (Cincinnati area) support repealing SB 5 (38%-54%) by  the exact same margin as Northeastern Ohioans (35%-51%). 

And this is just among registered voters.  The problem for Kasich is that the only region Ohio that arguably supports keeping SB 5 is West Central Ohio (45%-44%), but it has not nearly the votes as a whole that Cleveland has on its own.  Plus, GOTV is going to be a problem in non-urban areas that don’t have much of anything else on the ballot.

The fact that repeal of SB 5 is hugely popular in Ohio’s urban areas as well as the rural areas of Southeast Ohio (which is where support for repeal of SB 5 is actually the strongest at 70%-27%), means that the pro-SB 5 campaign (if one ever actually organized) has virtually no region in Ohio it can focus its GOTV efforts to counteract the massive votes in Ohio’s urban areas. 

Therefore, I suspect when Quinnipiac moves to a likely voter model, the support for repeal of SB 5 should be even larger.