In the second blockbuster Quinnipiac poll out today, Governor Ted Strickland’s hopes for re-election look dim indeed — but that’s not the main takeaway from the survey.  Democrats successfully turned Ohio from red to blue in 2006 and 2008, but the love affair with Barack Obama and the Democrats has come to an end.  Obama’s job-approval ratings on issues has dropped precipitately, and as his fortunes fall, so do those of his party (via Jim Geraghty):

Ohio voters disapprove 50 – 45 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, down from his 53 – 42 percent approval September 16 and 49 – 44 percent approval July 7.

In still another first, voters are split 40 – 40 percent on who is doing a better job handling health care, the President or Congressional Republicans, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh- pe-ack) University survey finds. In a September 16 survey on the same question, Obama was on top 49 – 28 percent.

Ohio voters disapprove 53 – 42 percent of the way the President is handling the economy and disapprove 57 – 36 percent of the way he is handling health care. In September, they approved of his handling of the economy 48 – 46 percent and split on his handling of health care 44 – 45 percent.

As has been the case elsewhere, independents have fled from the Democrats:

Independent voters, often the group that decides Ohio elections, disapprove 49 – 45 percent of the overall job Obama is doing and disapprove 54 – 39 percent of his handling of the economy. They disapprove 62 – 34 percent, almost 2-1, of his handling of health care.

The same dynamic was present in last week’s elections.  The circus in NY-23 allowed the media to obscure it a bit, but in the other three elections, independents dumped Democrats and voted for Republicans — even when they had a third-party choice, as they did in New Jersey.  In California, the state’s lieutenant governor only got a 10-point win in a district that had elected Democrats with at least 63% of the vote in four straight elections, against a Republican so unknown that the Democrats actually quoted a different David Harmer by mistake in one of their ads.

Bill Clinton tried to argue this week that Democrats have lost ground because they haven’t enacted their agenda, but the flight of independents shows clearly that the opposite is true.  The Democrats are making themselves into a minority party  by pursuing a radical, leftist agenda.  They got elected by promising the opposite, by telling independents that they were a party of pragmatists who would be more responsible than the GOP.  Instead, they’re spending money faster and more dishonestly than anyone would have thought in their worst nightmares, assisted by an absentee President who himself postured as a post-partisan moderate.

What does that mean for Republicans?  The GOP has a golden opportunity to get these voters back into the Republican fold, but they need to understand how to keep them there.  The independents want fiscal modesty and limited government across the entire spectrum of political thought.  They don’t want intrusiveness and spending that doesn’t reflect solid ability to pay for itself.  In that sense, Rob Portman is the perfect banner-carrier in Ohio.  He is a conservative, but primarily a fiscal conservative in the Club for Growth mold.  He understands that the economy and jobs are the biggest concerns for most Americans and will focus on those issues without attempting to impose broad, sweeping mandates for social change.

Focus on the core values of fiscal conservatism and limited government, and the GOP could win governing coalitions across the country in 2010.  Attempt to go beyond that, and those independents may seek third-party options instead.