Kasich Leads Reelection Race

But his support for Medicaid expansion could scuttle 2016 talk.

TAMPA, FL - AUGUST 28: Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the Republican National Convention at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on August 28, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. Today is the first full session of the RNC after the start was delayed due to Tropical Storm Isaac. 
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Steven Shepard
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Steven Shepard
Nov. 26, 2013, 2:26 a.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s lead over his Demo­crat­ic chal­lenger, Ed FitzGer­ald, has been cut in half over the past 5 months, ac­cord­ing to a new Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll. But the first-term Re­pub­lic­an’s 2014 reelec­tion cam­paign re­mains on fairly firm ter­rain, even if the poll raises doubts about wheth­er his stew­ard­ship in Ohio can ap­peal to voters in the race for the GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion two years later.

Kasich leads FitzGer­ald, the new poll shows, 44 per­cent to 37 per­cent. That is down from a 14-point lead in June, though Kasich en­joyed leads of roughly 10 points in two earli­er polls this year.

The June Quin­nipi­ac poll had been the most re­cent live-caller sur­vey in the race un­til Tues­day. Two auto­mated sur­veys from the Demo­crat­ic firm Pub­lic Policy Polling, one in Au­gust con­duc­ted on their own and an­oth­er earli­er this month com­mis­sioned by the Ohio Demo­crat­ic Party, had showed FitzGer­ald run­ning neck-and-neck with Kasich.

The week after the June sur­vey was re­leased, Kasich signed a budget that in­cluded new re­stric­tions on abor­tion. And last month, Kasich pushed through Medi­caid ex­pan­sion to provide low-in­come Ohioans with med­ic­al cov­er­age. The Quin­nipi­ac poll found that Medi­caid ex­pan­sion is re­l­at­ively pop­u­lar, with 51 per­cent say­ing it is a good idea. Tues­day’s re­lease didn’t in­clude ques­tions about the abor­tion re­stric­tions, though data on Ohio voters’ opin­ions on oth­er is­sues are forth­com­ing in a fu­ture re­lease.

Des­pite the nar­row­ing race, there are some signs Kasich re­mains the fa­vor­ite for reelec­tion. A ma­jor­ity, 52 per­cent, ap­prove of the way he is hand­ling his job as gov­ernor, while 33 per­cent dis­ap­prove. More voters, 48 per­cent, think he de­serves reelec­tion than the per­cent­age of voters who don’t think so, 39 per­cent.

Kasich nears the end of 2013 more pop­u­lar than he began it, even if the bal­lot test is tight­er since the pre­vi­ous poll. In early Decem­ber of 2012, though his ap­prov­al rat­ing was net-pos­it­ive, it was only at 42 per­cent. And his reelect was up­side-down: Only 36 per­cent thought he de­served reelec­tion, com­pared to 43 per­cent who didn’t.

FitzGer­ald, the Cuyahoga County ex­ec­ut­ive, re­mains un­known to most voters: 71 per­cent say they haven’t heard enough about him to form an opin­ion. He’s picked up only 13 points in name-ID since last Decem­ber, equally pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive.

If Kasich wins reelec­tion, his name will likely enter the dis­cus­sion over the GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­a­tion in 2016; Kasich briefly ran for pres­id­ent in 1999 be­fore drop­ping out of the race. But, at least in Ohio, the Quin­nipi­ac poll points to some pit­falls. Even though the ma­jor­ity of voters think Medi­caid ex­pan­sion is a good idea, just 28 per­cent of Re­pub­lic­ans agree. And just 14 per­cent say Kasich’s de­cision to ex­pand Medi­caid makes them more likely to vote for him in the gubernat­ori­al elec­tion, while 24 per­cent say it makes them less likely to vote for him.

The Quin­nipi­ac Uni­versity poll was con­duc­ted Nov. 19-24, sur­vey­ing 1,361 re­gistered voters. The mar­gin of er­ror is plus-or-minus 2.7 per­cent­age points.

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