A new poll shows the Ohio governor’s race is a toss- up, and it signals trouble ahead for Gov. John Kasich’s re-election.

The survey of likely voters shows Kasich polling at just 40% against little-known Democrat Ed FitzGerald, who is Cuyahoga County’s executive.  Kasich’s trouble among conservatives is reflected in a 6% showing for Libertarian Charlie Earl, and the remaining 16 % are undecided, according to Public Policy Polling.

A survey in early November found Kasich and FitzGerald tied at 41 %.

“Although there’s been a fair amount of movement toward Republicans nationally since that time, the state of this particular race has seen very little movement and Democrats continue to have an excellent chance at a pick up next year, according to PPP polling director Tom Jensen.

You can read his polling memo here:

“A few things really stand out in the crosstabs,’’ Jensen said.  “FitzGerald dominates the middle, getting 44% of the vote with moderates to just 17% for Kasich. Also 66% of the voters who remain undecided are women, giving FitzGerald a lot of room to grow with a traditionally strong Democratic constituency.’’

A strong gender gap in Ohio benefited the re-elections of both President Obama and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, as their GOP opponents continued efforts to limit health care options for women and defund Planned Parenthood.  FitzGerald is a strong supporter of women’s health care and supports abortion rights.  Kasich opposes abortion rights, signed into law new abortion restrictions and is under fire for stacking the Ohio State Medical Board with anti-abortion zealots, including Ohio Right to Life boss Michael Gonidakis.

The survey was taken Dec. 6-8 and has a margin of error of  +/- 3.1 percent. The timing coincided with an onslaught of news stories about back taxes owed by FitzGerald running mate Sen. Eric Kearney, who ultimately withdrew from the race.

GOP spinners crowed about the controversy, but the poll suggests voters either did not know about the issue or did not care.

This election, like so many in the past, will likely hinge on Ohio’s economy.

Kasich knocked off incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland in 2010 by promising to improve Ohio’s struggling economy and accusing Strickland of failing to attract and retain jobs.

But the recovery that began under Strickland is now reversed, and news stories raise questions about the effectiveness and conflicts seen in JobsOhio, the private entity Kasich launched to replace the Ohio Department of Development.

More troubling for Kasich is a major expose by the Toledo Blade showing that the Kasich administration has greatly exaggerated the number of jobs created by firms receiving state money.