In an incumbent race where the challenger is largely unknown, conventional polling wisdom is the incumbent’s scoring on whether people think the incumbent deserves re-election is the most accurate predictor of the general election result. An incumbent in the low 40s or below is in serious trouble, but an incumbent with 50% or more is viewed as an almost certain bet to win re-election.
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Sherrod Brown would fall in the latter, but President Obama the former. Brown is, by far, the most popular elected official in the State of Ohio as the only officeholder who boasts an approval rating above 50% (52%, if you want the precise figure.) By a 50%/34% margin, Ohioans believe Sherrod Brown deserves re-election. Again, normally this would be viewed as an incumbent being in a “safe” position for re-election. That’s why Brown has a 21-point lead against former State Senator Kevin Coughlin and a thirteen-point lead over perennial candidate/part-time State Treasurer Josh Mandel. The race is essentially unchanged since July, and the margin is essentially unchanged since May. Brown has a ten-point lead with independents.
As for the President, he is still at his all-time low in polling in Ohio. A majority of Ohioans disapprove of his job performance at 53% to 42%, and by a 51%-43% margin, Ohioans believe he does not deserve to be re-elected. The poll indicates that the GOP nomination is essentially between Perry and Romney with nobody else being a factor (they did not test Christie.) Perry leads in a two-person primary race between he and Romney. However, it should be noted that this poll was conducted last week and most of the data had been collected before Thursday’s disastrous debate performance by Perry. Regardless, the only bright spot for Obama is that the race shows him in a “within the margin of error” lead against both. However, he’s polling at numbers where at this stage history would suggest the race favors the GOP candidate in Ohio slightly. For the 2012 Presidential race, Ohio is in that tossup/Lean R category. Obama still has a year, but he needs to fundamentally improve his standing in Ohio if he is banking on this state in his strategy for re-election.