Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"None of the above" leading GOP candidate for Governor

So, the latest Quinny poll came out yesterday. If you read the Columbus Dispatch's reporting on it, you'd think Strickland was doomed. I think what Josh Marshall at TPM has been saying about the Beltway media in Washington is true for the Statehouse media in Ohio: they're still wired for Republicans being in power. Most of these reporters never covered politics with the Republicans this far out of power, at least not for a very long time. In fact, the case can be made that it's even worse in Ohio than it was in Washington. The GOP dominance in this State was so long and so great, reporters simply didn't bother developing relationships and sources with the Democratic side of politics. We were, in reality, politically irrelevant for nearly twenty years.

So despite the fact that Democrats now have a near monopoly on statewide, non-judicial offices, control half of the General Assembly, and in parity in Congressional representation, the media is still wired to report with a strong Republican perspective. The Dispatch's coverage of the Quinny poll is indemic of that outdated political wiring for media to gather spin on stories. That, and reporting on conflict is exciting. Telling the truth that Strickland looks incredibly strong for re-election and the GOP looks politically irrelevant in stopping Strickland from re-election just doesn't sell newspapers.

Here's my takeaway from this, after six months of pushing the potential candidacies of former Senator Mike DeWine and former Congressman John Kasich as messiahs to guide the Ohio GOP out of the political wilderness, the Ohio GOP finds itself with potential matchups that, to date, would do worse than Ken Blackwell did in 2006. Undecideds rarely break monlithically to the challenger, particularly when the incumbent has nearly 2:1 favorability/unfavorability and approval/disapproval job ratings. Yet, even if every undecided voter broke for the Republicans, Strickland would STILL win re-election comfortably against either candidate.

Strickland would easily beat either DeWine or Kasich by sixteen to twenty points respectively. (Given DeWine, high voter identification numbers, I'd suggest that DeWine might represent the ceiling for any Republican candidate for Governor.) Either candidate is presently polling worse that the vote Ken Blackwell got in 2006. Right now, after hearing the list of the potential Republican candidates for Governor, even Republicans favor "I don't know/No Answer" by a five-point margin. That's what the Dispatch failed to report.

Also, incumbents with above 50% favorability and approval ratings simply don't lose elections. They don't. Period. End of analysis. He is not doomed. Nor does this portray a troubling trend. Strickland's favorability rating was actually below 50% back in December 2008. So even though it's dropped a little from its recent high last month, it's still above his most recent and historic low. Strickland's only sub-50% job approval rating was back in February 2007. Since then, Strickland has consistently fluctuated between the mid 50s and low 60s on job approval. Guess what the next poll will show? I bet a Strickland improvement. It's becoming statistical noise.

The real takeaway from this poll is that while there are areas where Strickland is politically vulnerable, the overall favorable political environment for Strickland appears to be static. And as much damage as the Republicans think they might be able to inflict, so long as they are required to run a candidate in opposition, they're very likely to lose as not even Republicans are showing much excitement for their options. Incidentially, to the extent DeWine might have thought that announcing his candidacy might dissaude Kasich from actually running, the mushy, softness of the Republican vote with its high undecideds suggests this is a wide open race where anyone (but Coughlin) has a legitimate shot on being the GOP nominee. That again, was another story the Dispatch failed to report in regards to this poll yesterday.

What's not getting reported at all is the chatter among conservatives who are getting frustrated of Kasich's "is he, or is he not" actually running. Kasich sees in these numbers an opening, but it also says that the GOP very likely cannot bloody Strickland up enough to make him vulnerable. And when running for Governor would require a massive paycut, you start to understand exactly why the Kasich for Governor campaign hasn't yet launched.

No comments: