There are a couple of things you should never do in a hotly contested political campaign.  The first is look like you’re picking on a great-grandmother who is grateful to her local firefighters for saving her great-granddaughter’s life.   The other thing is that you don’t have as the public face of your campaign an unpopular politician who is under water by double-digits in his approval/disapproval rating and have him travel the State delivering your message.   The brain trust that is the Building a Better Ohio campaign did both in the past month, and it’s had the predictable effect on Issue 2’s standing in the polls.

According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, Ohioans now oppose Issue 2 by a margin of 57% to 32%–a whopping twenty-five point margin two weeks out from the election, essentially back to where Quinnipiac showed the campaign in July before the ad wars and campaigning began in earnest.  In September, the margin was thirteen points, meaning opposition has nearly doubled as Kasich has taken to the road and campaigned across the State on behalf of Issue 2.

Remember how last month I said the race had tightened because male voters and Republicans “came home” to Kasich?  Well, they apparently stayed only long enough to get a change of clothes, because they promptly left.  Republicans support Issue 2 now by only a 59% to 32 % margin.  In September, it was 65% to 23%.  Again, the Republican crosstabs looks like it did in July.  What’s happened is that 4% of the Republicans who had a position on Issue 2 went back on the fence and many who supported it when back to opposing it.  Again, this shouldn’t be happening this close to an election cycle unless a campaign is seriously misfiring.

Male voters now oppose Issue 2 by a 54%-38% margin.  In September, the margin was 45% (favor) to 50% (repeal), nearly a split.  Again, male voters numbers in late October mirror what they showed in July.

While Republicans oppose repeal 59 – 32 percent, their votes are buried under by Democrats who support repeal 77 – 13 percent and independent voters who agree 56 – 32 percent. Support for repeal is strong across gender, racial, income and education groups:

  • Men, 54 – 38 percent, and women, 58 – 27 percent;
  • Those without college degrees, 56 – 30 percent, and those with degrees, 57 – 37 percent;
  • Whites, 54 – 35 percent, and blacks, 76 – 15 percent;
  • Voters making over $100,000, 52 – 42 percent, those who earn less, 59 – 30 percent;
  • Voters in union households, 70 – 24 percent, non-union households, 52 – 35 percent.

“Anything is possible in politics, but with such across-the-board support for repealing SB 5, the governor and his team can’t be optimistic about the fate of their law,” said Brown.

“Although the parts of the law that require public workers to contribute to their retirement and health care costs are popular with voters, the strong opposition to curtailing collective bargaining and seniority rights apparently is what seems to be carrying the day for the law’s opponents. In the end, voters disagree 57 – 34 percent with Kasich’s argument that the limits on union power are needed to balance the budget,” Brown added.

I’ve never seen a campaign with this broad of support two weeks out of an election lose.  I’m not saying it’s not possible.  But I’m saying I’m unaware of any campaign polling this well this close to an election losing, and I seriously doubt I’m about to see it happen in two weeks.

Quinnipiac shows that support for merit-pay, which had been traditionally one of the most popular aspects of SB 5 has weakened in support.  Now only it’s favored by only a plurality of voters at 49% to 40%, the weakest that measure has polled with Quinnipiac.  The only provisions that get strong approval from voters are those requiring employees to pay at least 15% of their health insurance premiums and contributing at least 10% of their wages to their pensions.

Kasich’s approval rating has also taken a hit.  Nearly one in four Republicans disapprove of his performance as Governor already, just ten months into his first term.  75% of Democrats disapprove of Kasich (14% approve.)  Independents, who went for Kasich is large numbers just last year, have already abandoned him with 54% disapproving and ony 30% approving.  For the first time in his term, Quinnipiac shows a majority of Ohioans disapprove of his performance.  Overall, Kasich has a 36% to 52% approval/disapproval rating. 

Opposition to Issue 2 has never polled higher with Quinnipiac, and support for it has never polled any lower.  One of the biggest problems for Building a Better Ohio is that two weeks out until the election and voter skepticism that Issue 2 is needed to balance the State budget has never been higher.  Kasich’s disapproval rating on handling the budget, by the way, is also at an all-time high (55%).  In other words, there’s virtually nothing Kasich has done so far as Governor that people like.  Nothing.  Every one of his signature achievements are grossly unpopular.

Both PPP and Quinnipiac have shown  a noticeable jump in opposition to Issue 2 in the past month.  You have to think “Grannygate” is part of that reason.  So is being outspent 5:2.  And with poll numbers like this, Building a Better Ohio is going to have a hard time convincing donors that they can still have a path to victory so long as they get the funding they need.  We won’t see it (because Building a Better Ohio has made a non-binding promise to reveal its finances only after the campaign), but I wouldn’t be surprised if the money is drying up at Building a Better Ohio.  We could see the spending advantage of We Are Ohio grow in the final two weeks.  The out-of-state third-parties that were looking to get involved in the race are re-evaluating whether its worth spending money on now given the gulf in public opinion and only two weeks left.  And in Republican circles, the finger pointing and blame game will start. 

First on the list will be Republican ad consultant Rex Elass, who was no doubt the genius behind the decision to add the footage of We Are Ohio’s elderly endorser to an ad they were already running, thus triggering “GrannyGate.”  Expect Shannon Jones to be thrown under the Kasich bus as they continue to rewrite history and suggest that Jones went “rogue” and rolled out Senate Bill 5 prematurely (even though Kasich had enough notice about it to appear at the legislative unveiling of the bill and gave it his full endorsement.)  Grab the popcorn, folks.  It’s about to get really interesting over the next couple of weeks.  After all, you must keep in mind that no first-term Ohio Governor has seen one of his legislative achievements be repealled in the first year of his term.

Today, ironically, Mitt Romney is coming to town to a rally of pro-Issue 2/Issue 3 volunteers.  As Talking Points Memo pointed out, this is the irony of Romney lending his support to Issue 3, a constitutional amendment that would prevent the State of Ohio of instituting RomneyCare here.  But given the wide opposition to Issue 2, you have to wonder politically what the Romney campaign is thinking associating itself with such a doomed and widely unpopular issue as Issue 2.  If these numbers reflect the election results, we might see something rarely seen in Ohio politics: federal candidates hanging State issues on their Republican opponents.  Josh Mandel has yet to be hit for his support for Issue 2, an oversight I am confident that Sherrod Brown’s campaign will remedy.  But we might even seen the Obama campaign hang Romney for his support for Issue 2 in Ohio (and maybe even beyond.)

I wouldn’t be surprised if Romney suddenly has a scheduling conflict.