After two disastrous cycles that has left them locked out of most statewide offices, Ohio Republicans believe that they could rebound in 2010 by running former Rep. Rob Portman in the Senate race and former Rep. John Kasish in the gubernatorial race.
The first poll of the Senate race was released earlier this week, and it found Portman in a promising position. Now, Public Policy Polling has released the cycle’s first poll of Ohio’s gubernatorial race, pitting incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland against Kasish.
The results are somewhat worrisome for Democrats:
- Strickland leads 45% to 39% in a head-to-head match-up.
- Strickland has a good approval rating (48% versus 35%), but so does Kasish (34% to 24%).
It is always worrisome for an incumbent to come in under 50% or to post a single-digit lead; here, Strickland does both. This rule is especially important when an incumbent faces a challenger that is far less known, since what is essentially being tested is the incumbent’s vulnerability. As the poll indicates, Kasish is not known to more than 40% of voters.
These results are rather surprising, as Strickland did not seem to be an easy target for Republicans. He did, after all, triumph in the 2006 open seat, beating his Republican opponent 60% to 39%. That type of margin indicates a level of popularity that would not suggest a rocky road to re-election.
As long as Kasish can mount a competitive run (and this poll indicates that he should be able to), this will likely be one of those races in which the economic conjecture and Obama’s popularity will be very important. If the national environment is tough for Democrats in 2010, this poll suggests that Strickland should expect a tough race.
Public Policy Polling also released a poll from the North Carolina Senate race, testing Senator Richard Burr against Rep. Heath Shuler:
- Burr leads Shuler 39% to 28% - with a huge number of undecideds.
- Burr’s approval rating is very mediocre, 33% to 30%. Shuler’s stands at 21% versus 21% - with 58% of voters having no opinion of the representative.
What is most remarkable about this poll is how large a proportion of respondents have no opinion of Burr. That is not good news for the Senator since it means that he will have little incumbency advantage to protect himself behind; and do not forget that Democrats were successful against Dole by portraying her as a do-little Senator. Could Burr fall victim to the same problem?
The poll is not very useful when it comes to testing Shuler’s potential; his name recognition appears too low for such an early poll to be valuable in that aspect (Hagan trailed Dole by 16% in PPP’s first poll of that match-up, in the fall of 2007). If anything, the survey merely shows that there is no reason for Democrats to fear that a Shuler candidacy would be a disaster.
Finally, Quinnipiac released a poll testing the Republican and Democratic primaries of Florida’s Senate race. The poll’s only finding is that there is no favorite whatsoever and both nominations (and thus the general election) are wide open.
On the Democratic side, the poll was conducted before Alex Sink announced she would not run; even so, 54% of respondents say they do not know who they would vote for. No candidate gets more than 15% (Sink), and Reps. Meek, Boyd and Klein are within 4% of each other.
On the Republican side, the numbers reflect little more than name recognition: 39% have no opinion, 22% choose Attorney General McCollum, 21% go for Rep. Mack, 10% for Rep. Buchanan and only 6% choose former House Speaker Marco Rubio. Rubio is little known outside of his home base of Southern Florida, but he is expected to get extensive establishment support if he jumps in the race (he is a close ally of former Governor Jeb Bush) and the primary numbers will be very different once all candidates introduce themselves to voters.