Today’s Quinnipiac poll shows Obama with a slight lead against Republican Mitt Romney 44% to 42%.  What’s remarkable about the poll is its similarity to Quinnipiac’s 2010 poll in the Strickland-Kasich race in late February (the closest poll at the same stage of the race.)  At roughly this point in 2010, Quinny had Strickland up 44% to 39%. 

There are other similarities:

Romney beats Obama 89 – 5 percent among Republicans and the two men tie among independent voters 39 – 40 percent. The president carries Democrats 87 – 7 percent. Romney gets 45 percent of men to Obama’s 42 percent. Women back Obama 47 – 38 percent. [Today]

Strickland leads Kasich 48 – 33 percent among women while Kasich leads 45 – 38 percent among men.  Kasich leads 73 – 11 percent among Republicans, while the Governor leads 82 – 9 percent among Democrats. Independent voters split 38 – 38 percent.  [2010]

Yes, you read that right.  Technically, Romney does better with Republican voters against Obama than Kasich was doing against Strickland. 

On who would do better on the economy?  It’s Mitt Romney over the President with a 48%/42% advantage.  At roughly this point a year ago, Kasich had a lead over Strickland on the economy at 41 – 35 percent.

Amazingly, Obama’s approval rating during this February 2010 poll was 44% approval to 54% disapproval.  It’s now 44% to 54%.  So, that means Obama’s likely to face the same result in Ohio as Strickland, right?  Wrong.

45% of Ohioans believe Obama deserve re-election to 51% who don’t.  Most incumbents with a 45% re-election number this far out win.  Also, Romney’s appeal so far seems to be limited solely to the economy, even among Republicans.  As the economy improves, as it’s expected to continue to do, Obama’s approval rating will improve, and Romney’s limited appeal becomes less relevant. 

Another factor is Kasich today isn’t the same as he was in 2010.  Kasich and Romney have a lot in common.  Both are trying to use their problematic private sector business to make the case they’d be stronger on the economy.  Both are breaking from tradition of candidates by refusing to disclose their tax returns.  A point the Ohio Democratic Party bounced on today in a press release:

“Mitt Romney doesn’t want middle-class Ohioans to see his tax returns because then they will know for sure that he pays a much lower tax rate than they do,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern. “If quarter-billionaire Mitt Romney is unfairly gaming the tax system in his favor, Ohioans have the right to know about it before our March primary. But even though leaders in both parties are pressuring Mitt Romney to follow a longtime precedent of presidential candidates in releasing his tax returns, we still haven’t gotten a straight answer from him."

Redfern continued, "How much money did he make, what effective tax rate does he pay, and why is he withholding this information? It’s time for Mitt Romney to reject the failed Governor-Kasich-model of ‘transparency,’ come clean with hardworking Ohioans and hold himself to the same standard that his father and every Republican and Democratic presidential nominee have set for decades.”

This was the issue that the Strickland campaign failed to use the tax filings on Kasich.  They kept it solely as an issue of transparency.  With Romney, it’s also become a discussion about how unfair the tax system is by having the middle class pay a higher rate than folks like Romney and Kasich.

Apparently, the Obama campaign believes that Ohio is a winnable State as they made the State one of the six States it made its first ad buy in the campaign with this ad pushing back against the Karl Rove American Crossroads and Americans for Prosperity’s attack ads on Solyandra.

We’ll see if the economy continues to improve will move the political opinion needle in Ohio.  Kasich opened a large and seemingly growing lead during the summer in 2010 that quickly closed as Strickland’s message that the economy in Ohio was improving started to take root. 

Therein lies the biggest difference between Obama and Strickland’s re-election campaigns in Ohio—Strickland had to convince Ohioans it was improving while running for re-election; Obama has the benefit of an economy showing improvement nearly two years before he had to run for re-election.