Recently, a friend asked me to assess the prospects for the 2016 cycle, especially in regard to the Republican nomination. I predicted that the GOP nominee would come from the gubernatorial ranks, as voters look for both a track record of executive success and an outside-the-Beltway approach — which may be particularly needed if Democrats actually nominate Hillary Clinton. We ran down the list of Republican governors, including Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal, Susana Martinez, and Mike Pence. My friend asked about John Kasich of Ohio, but I responded by saying that he may not be strong enough at home to do Republicans much good in a state they have to win.
That turned out to be a little premature, at least according to the latest Survey USA poll taken in Ohio. The state holds its primary next week, and Kasich faces no challenge from his own party. He has a ten-point lead over his most likely Democratic challenger, although not quite to the 50% mark of safety for an incumbent:
Heading into the final week before the 05/06/14 Primary:
* 46% approve of the job that Republican John Kasich is doing as Governor. 39% disapprove.
* 33% have a favorable opinion of Democratic candidate Ed Fitzgerald; 23% have an unfavorable opinion; significantly: 45% have no opinion of Fitzgerald.
* 46% of voters say Ohio is on the right track; 43% say Ohio is on the wrong track.
In a hypothetical election today for Governor of Ohio, 46% would vote for incumbent Republican Kasich, 36% would vote for Democratic challenger Fitzgerald. In a separate hypothetical election today for Governor, 50% would vote for Kasich if he were opposed by Democratic challenger Larry Ealy, who gets 25%.
Kasich is winning independents against both challengers in Survey USA’s match-ups. He has an eight-point edge over Fitzgerald, 38/26, and a 27-point lead over Ealy, 40/13. He has leads among men and women against both Democrats, although his edge on Fitzgerald is within the MOE at 41/37.
The top issues for Ohio voters next week are job creation (28%), health care (17%) and taxes (16%). Kasich clobbers Fitzgerald, his likely general-election opponent, on all three: 45/36, 54/31, and 64/17, respectively. The health-care numbers show the impact of ObamaCare on Ohio, and that can’t be good news for Democrats in the midterms or for 2016, either.
Furthermore, Kasich has a pretty good lead in fundraising over either Democrat, with just six months to go:
Gov. John Kasich’s reelection campaign is well ahead of his main Democratic challenger, with more than $8.5 million in cash on hand.
The total was more than five times that reported by Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald on pre-primary campaign finance filings April 24. …
Kasich’s campaign reported nearly $1.5 million in contributions and spending of about $863,000. …
FitzGerald reported more than $642,000 in contributions during the period, including $107,000 added by the Ohio Democratic Party a day earlier.
His campaign spent nearly $574,000, leaving an available balance of $1.5 million.
Democrats may be forced to spend money in Ohio to boost Fitzgerald, but the prospects don’t look promising. Kasich is still under 50% but the issues and the passion lean in his direction. National Democratic committees will be plugging a lot of holes this fall, mainly in the Senate in an attempt to retain control over the upper chamber. Ohio is critical for their presidential hopes in 2016, but a Kasich re-election probably won’t hurt them as much in that regard as losing the Senate in this election cycle will.
Republicans have chosen Columbus [see update below] as one of its finalists for the 2016 convention. A solid Kasich performance this year might put him back on the map in the presidential cycle in more ways than one.
Update: Actually, Columbus was eliminated in a previous round, but Cincinnati and Cleveland are still in play. Thanks to Nick Mascari on Twitter for the reminder.