One of the lesser reported themes in the 2010 gubernatorial races was how Governor Kasich told conservatives that a vote for him was actually a vote against President Obama’s re-election in 2012:

Of course, as the titular head of the State party, a Governor can have influence over national politics.  Normally, a Governor’s popularity can be used to transition to support his or her party’s presidential candidates.  Also, the Governor traditionally is well tied into the State party organization structure and other political statewide political operations that can be lent to the presidential effort.  It’s no surprise that in 2008 much of the Obama-Biden campaign’s Ohio team read like a roster of the ‘06 Strickland-Fisher gubernatorial campaign team, for example.

But if you’ve learned anything on this site it’s that John Kasich isn’t a normal Governor.  Right now, as Mittens and Newt try to claw and slime their way past each other to the RNC Convention nomination vote in Tampa this summer, Governor Kasich has decided to attempt a coup in the Ohio Republican Party’s Central Committee with the sole goal of getting a slate of candidates in to vote current Ohio GOP Chairman Kevin DeWine (who took over the party after it was virtually wiped out after the 2006 elections and led it to its victories in 2010) out so that Kasich can put one of his well-heeled friends there instead.

Kasich is attempting this coup after leading his party to an unprecedented rebuke by voters who by a 60%-40% margin rejected a key part of what has become not just Kasich’s agenda, but the Republican Party agenda in Ohio due to its support by the Republican legislative caucuses.  Since his “Jobs Budget” has passed, Ohio has actually lost jobs (-300 from June 2011 when it was passed to December 2011.)

He has an approval rating so low that most other governors would have to have the phrase “grand jury investigation” associated with them in order to get.  And it’s barely budged in over a year.

As you can imagine, these things are making Kasich more of an asset for the Obama campaign than for the GOP.  As Newt and Mitt are tearing themselves apart nationally for the nomination, Kasich and DeWine are waging a civil war that will leave no true victor at the end of it.  And all of this, including positive news about an improving (national) economy has Obama’s fortunes in Ohio brightening, according to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democratic polling outfit that is well respective for its reliable and accurate polling (and actually, if anything, has been accused of overstating support for the Republican candidate historically.)

Today, PPP released its latest polling in Ohio on President Obama, Mittens, and Newt.  In short, the political picture in Ohio for Obama is a slightly more bluish purple than when Ohioans turn out in record numbers to vote down Issue 2.  His approval rating is now at an even 48%/48%, which is actually a pretty good place to be politically, especially in this anti-incumbent environment.

Obama leads against Mitt Romney by 49% to 42%.  Santorum technically does better at 48% to 42%, but it’s not a statistically significant advantage.   Gingrich and Romney are not well likely in Ohio with each being underwater on their favorability ratings (25%-59% and 28%-56%).  They’re as popular in Ohio as Ron Paul (27%-57%). 

There is a huge gender gap politically in Ohio as Obama is rated far better by female voters, while the Republicans fare better with male voters.  While Obama’s approval rating is well under water with independents at 40%-53%, he actually leads with Independents by five when put to a head-to-head matchup with Romney.  Against Romney, Obama leads by 18 points with female voters, but is down –6 points with male voters.  Obama’s approval rating is highest among voters 18-29 and 46-65, but lowest among middle agers 30-45. 

So the sterotypical anti-Obama voter is a white male, 30-45 years old who is either a registered Republican or Independent.  The challenge for the Republicans in Ohio is can they bring Obama down without hurting Romney’s bad favorability ratings even more.

The reality is that eventually the GOP primary will be over, and Mitt Romney will get a public relations boost in earned media, millions in third-party ads that build him up and/or attack Obama, and the usual post-convention bounce.

Obama’s support in the African-American community is surprisingly weaker than it was in 2008.  In fact, I’d say it falls in the range of what you’d typically expect a white Democratic would get, perhaps less.  However, there’s something about presidential polling that you have to keep in mind.  Historically, Republican voters tend to get engaged into the political campaigns very early.  Democratic voters seem very disengaged until shortly before the election, so I suspect the African-American numbers are more indicative of a lack of engagement by Democrats in the race than anything else.

Regardless, while it does not yet appear that Obama is sitting as well as Quinnipiac has shown Sherrod Brown (PPP will release its poll on the race by the end of the week), Obama’s trendlines are positive and are already at levels that suggest he may carry Ohio again this fall.