This morning, Quinnipiac released its data on the Presidential and Senate races in Ohio.  Quinnipiac finds that Ken Blackwell has a substantial lead among GOP primary voters over State Treasurer Josh Mandel and former State Senator (Disclosure: I sued him once) Kevin Coughlin. 

Blackwell also polls the best against Sherrod Brown of the three GOP candidates tested.  I don’t think Ken Blackwell began this year thinking about running for the U.S. Senate, but I bet he is now that yet another poll shows him as the prohibitive GOP frontrunner.  (I’m not kidding.)

A.  Ken Blackwell has nearly a 2:1 advantage over Josh Mandel, the GOP establishment favorite who polls as well against Brown as a virtual unknown.

Among Republican voters, Blackwell gets 33 percent in the U.S. Senate primary, with Mandel at 17 percent and Coughlin at 5 percent. Another 43 percent are undecided.

Kind of hard to imagine Kevin Coughlin is actually going to run for the GOP nomination if Blackwell and Mandel both do.  With 43% undecided, Mandel could still beat Blackwell, but it’s going to be tough with Blackwell starting out with nearly 2:1 advantage over Mandel.

Let me repeat that:  State Treasurer Josh Mandel, the GOP establishment candidate, the one the national political media has said is the GOP’s chosen pick for the race, is getting creamed by nearly 2:1 to Ken Blackwell. 

And, ironically, one of the reasons may be because conservatives are getting irritated that Mandel won’t publicly back Senate Bill 5.   Last week, WCPO in Cincinnati reported that Tea Party activists and conservative activists in organizations like COAST have blasted government officials over a lack of transparency over their pay:

“As people get elected to higher and higher office, they become less and less in touch with the people they represent,” said [COAST Chairman] Jason Gloyd.

We expect them to be representatives of the people, and we expect them to be receptive to the needs of their constituents, and to not respond to that I think is a big deal,” said Mike Wilson, founder and president of the Cincinnati Tea Party.


Political views aside, he claims if politicians won’t even respond to the media, then everyday citizens don’t stand a chance.

“Disappointing obviously, but not surprising. It could be arrogance, it could incompetence at others. It could be some low-level staffer who checks the mail and didn’t forward it to the appropriate person,” said Wilson. “…Believe me, none of those answers are good.”

Isn’t it only a matter of time before these folks publicly say the same think of “Mystery Man” Mandel, the candidate who has no positions on conservatism’s Ohio agenda?

Blackwell can also point to Quinnipiac as being the first poll that not only shows him strongest to win the nomination, but strongest against Sherrod Brown.  Brown leads all three GOP nominees in beyond the margin of error leads, but Blackwell’s is substantially close.  Against Blackwell, Brown leads only nine points (44%-35%), but against Josh Mandel, the GOP establishment favorite, Brown holds an impressive fourteen-point lead (45%-31%), which is much better than the sixteen-point lead that Brown gets against a virtual unknown like former State Senator Kevin Coughlin (44%-28%.)  In fact, while Blackwell gets an edge with male voters against Brown, Brown leads with both female and male voters against Mandel.

B.  Quinnipiac makes a stronger case for Blackwell candidacy than Mandel has made for his own.

For all the talk about how Mandel’s fourteen-point victory last November made him a serious contender for the U.S. Senate race, today’s Quinnipiac Poll reveals Mandel for whom he is—an empty suit who voters don’t know any better than a virtually unknown former State Senator from Summit County.  I’ll say it: if Ken Blackwell makes it clear before Mandel announces that he intends to run, I wouldn’t be surprised that Mandel stays out of the race entirely.

ORP Chairman Kevin DeWine said in response to the possibility of a Ken Blackwell candidacy, “This will be a tough election cycle, and [Blackwell] needs to show how 2012 will not be 2006.”  Blackwell fired back pointing out how such concerns didn’t stop DeWine from clearing the field to help his cousin, Mike DeWine’s candidacy last year for Attorney General.

The reality is that Kevin Coughlin’s criticisms about a Mandel candidacy seem to be directly on point: Mandel’s strengths as a GOP contender have been grossly overestimated, if today’s Quinnipiac Poll is to be believed.

C.  Brown not a lock for re-election, but his poll numbers continue to improve as Ohio voters seem to be concluding they have little desire to vote him out.

Although Brown is still arguably beatable, his polling numbers are in a range that at this point in a contest would strongly indicate he’s likely to be re-elected if history is any guide.  And look out, Connie, one reason Sherrod’s doing so well is that he’s favored by female voters:

Women are the key to Brown’s lead over three potential Republican challengers:

  • Women back Brown over Blackwell 49 – 27 percent while men back the Republican 43 – 38 percent;
  • Brown leads Mandel 40 – 36 percent among men and 50 – 26 percent among women;
  • Men split with 38 percent for Brown and 36 percent for Coughlin, but women go with the Democrat 50 – 22 percent.

Another advantage Brown has going into re-election is a decent approval rating with broad support:

Sen. Brown, who has a 49 – 30 percent job approval rating, has a 48 – 31 percent rating among independents, the key voter group. He gets thumbs up from Democrats 72 – 11 percent. Republicans disapprove 48 – 27 percent which is a better score than most Democrats get. For example, Republicans disapprove of Obama 84 – 12 percent.

Brown’s standing with Republicans will like worsen once we get into an actual campaign mode, but Sherrod has solid support with his base and is doing well among Independents.  In comparison, Sherrod’s approval rating margins are no different than that of freshman Senator Rob Portman (38%-21%).  The fact that Brown has an approval rating that is slightly better than Portman’s has during his political “honeymoon” period bodes well for Brown. 

Brown’s approval rating is actually on the upswing, too.  In March, his approval rating was 43%-27%, so he’s seen a six-point bounce his approval rating in just two months.  Not bad.  Sherrod has above 50% approval ratings in just about every region in Ohio but Southwest Ohio and Western Central Ohio, which historically is the GOP’s geopolitical base in the State.  His approval rating isn’t too far from his all-time Quinnipiac high of 52%-24%, which he reached in May of 2009.

Brown’s “re-elect” number is also on the upswing, with 49% of Ohio voters saying that they believe Brown deserves re-election—a four-point bounce from March.  Generally, a candidate with an > 50% “re-elect” number is considered safe for re-election.  But only 31% saying he doesn’t deserve re-election, which hasn’t moved much all year.  This numbers suggest that at least at this point, Ohioans don’t particularly want to vote Sherrod Brown out of office.

C.  Ohio will be a hotly contested State for the Presidential race, (just as it’s been since 1804).

President Obama, Quinnipiac says in their press release, didn’t get an “Osama” bounce in Ohio, even though their poll shows that his approval rating is no longer under water going from 47%-48% in March to a clear 49%-45% in May.  More importantly, Quinnipiac notes “Independent voters shift from a negative 42 – 50 percent in March to a positive 49 – 44 percent today.” 

President Obama’s lead over an unnamed Republican in a November, 2012 trial run is down from 41 – 34 percent in March to 41 – 39 percent now, a virtual tie. Voters split 47 – 47 percent on whether he deserves a second term in office, compared to 45 – 46 percent in March.

The gender gap continues as men disapprove of Obama 50 – 45 percent while women approve 53 – 40 percent.

D.  If Sherrod Brown is vulnerable despite having an approval rating nearly 180-degrees from Kasich, then what does that mean for the “Kasich Republicans” in the Statehouse?

What does it all mean?  It means that Sherrod Brown has a stronger edge in carrying Ohio than Obama.   That Ohio continues its trend of being a potential swing State in 2012, but with a nearly 50% approval rating and no clear GOP field with broad appeal, he probably has a slight edge.  Regardless, Ohioans approve of the job Sherrod Brown, Rob Portman, and President Obama are doing, but largely hate the job John Kasich is doing.

In fact, if you didn’t already notice Sherrod Brown’s approval rating is almost 180-degrees from John Kasich.  You could write a political thesis on that fact alone.  But if Sherrod Brown is vulnerable next year for his sub-50% numbers, then what does that say about the “Kasich Republicans” in the Statehouse, who are going to be identified in most voters’ minds as nothing more than rubberstamps of Kasich’s agenda?