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Late to the Tea Party (Why John Kasich's Lead has Shrunk Dramatically in Ohio)
Nationa Review ^ | 10/13/2010 | Mytheos Holt

Posted on 10/13/2010 7:01:48 AM PDT by SeekAndFind

A month ago, Ohio’s Republican gubernatorial hopeful, John Kasich, seemed to have nothing to worry about. His opponent, incumbent governor Ted Strickland, was running an unfocused, attack-of-the-week-style campaign. Kasich’s lead in the polls stretched into the high teens, and his relentlessly cheery, ruthlessly policy-oriented campaign looked almost as disciplined and well-run as the Rob Portman campaign for Ohio’s open Senate seat.

Flash forward to now. Kasich’s lead has shrunk. At best, he leads Governor Strickland by eight or nine points.

Kasich is not exactly in dire straits — only two recent polls show Strickland earning 45 percent of the vote or above, and those two polls surveyed the lowest numbers of people. As RealClearPolitics notes, “Incumbents under 50 percent at this point in the game usually do not win; incumbents under 45 percent almost never win. Until Strickland consistently posts numbers in the 47/48 point range, he will be the underdog.”

Nonetheless, faced with the strange development of Kasich’s losing so much ground, Democrats are beating the drums in celebration, Republicans are seeking to downplay the results, and the media are scratching their heads as to what happened.

Liberals argue that Kasich has been the victim of a methodical, ruthless rope-a-dope strategy on the part of the Strickland campaign. In this version of events, Strickland sat back and let Kasich pummel him with negativity without saying anything — and then hit back twice as hard once Kasich had gotten overconfident. But at the statewide level, that’s precisely the reverse of what actually happened. While the Republican Governors’ Association ran some fairly blistering attack ads during September, the Kasich campaign itself did virtually no negative campaigning at all, instead opting for a message so sunny and positive it verged on corny. The Strickland campaign, meanwhile, ran nothing but stridently anti-business attack ads prior to the first gubernatorial debate, hitting Kasich for everything from outsourcing jobs to causing the financial crisis. Sources close to the Kasich campaign described this as an odd political role reversal, with Strickland running like a challenger despite his incumbent status, and Kasich running like an incumbent despite his challenger status. Given that Kasich recently began going negative using Strickland’s taxation record, if anybody used a rope-a-dope strategy, it was he.

Still, the liberal narrative gets one thing right: If the race is tightening, it is more a story of Kasich’s decline than of Strickland’s rise.

To be sure, Strickland has made politically wise decisions in recent weeks, and these may have reduced the enthusiasm gap. For one thing, following a stronger-than-expected debate performance against Kasich last month, Strickland has begun running like an incumbent. The governor’s campaign has shifted to more positive ground and begun emphasizing Strickland’s record of tax-cutting and job growth, allowing his party surrogates to sell him to the Left.

In the weeks since the debate, Strickland has saturated Ohio’s three major media markets with positive ads. The Columbus Dispatch reported that between September 20 and September 26, Strickland outspent Kasich by three to one in the Columbus, Cincinnati, and Cleveland markets. Kasich’s campaign began to hit back only this Tuesday (with a fiercely negative campaign ad).

The short-term effect of Strickland’s change of course is borne out by a poll from September 26 taken by the Ohio Newspaper Organization and reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer. The poll shows Kasich leading Strickland by only four points and notes an unusual degree of voter indecisiveness this close to an election, with 55 percent of Strickland voters saying they could change their minds and 45 percent of Kasich voters saying the same.

But Kasich’s failure to inspire his base is a bigger factor. Tuesday’s Quinnipiac poll notes that Kasich’s remaining lead is due almost entirely to his lopsided support among independent likely voters, who support the challenger by 62 to 29. And the markets where he faltered when Strickland began to air ads weren’t moderate or Democratic areas — the left-wing blog Plunderbund gleefully noted that Kasich had trouble in Cincinnati, ordinarily a Republican stronghold.

Also, while support for Kasich among likely Republicans may be high, most Republicans in Ohio are disengaged from the gubernatorial race. A CBS poll showed that only 43 percent of Republicans said they were paying a lot of attention to the campaign — a higher figure than the 36 percent of Democrats, but given that Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 1 million voters as of 2008, that’s still a disadvantage for Kasich in absolute numbers. Kasich’s commanding lead among the 40 percent of enthusiastic independent voters (who outnumber both Democrats and Republicans by a large margin) can help make this up, but if he wants to return to his devastating previous poll results, he needs to get the roughly 12 percent of Republican voters who don’t support him yet to commit, widen his lead among independents even further, and pick up a higher level of Democratic support — à la Rob Portman, who has succeeded at all three.

Kasich’s underexposure in base-friendly media markets, while it may have something to do with this, is by no means the deciding factor. In a state that lacks visible statewide leadership for the Tea Party, yet still has above-average Tea Party membership and is deeply wary of uncertainty, it is far more likely to be a symptom of Kasich’s not saying the right things. As of now, the biggest difference between Kasich and Rob Portman is that unlike Portman, who has released a detailed jobs plan that he mentions in every debate, Kasich has yet to release a comprehensive policy agenda of any kind. Matt Mayer, president of the Buckeye Institute, argues that Kasich’s path to victory is in selling himself forthrightly as Ohio’s version of New Jersey governor Chris Christie — not the moderate, relatively vague Christie of the 2009 campaign, but the pugnacious, direct, impossible-to-intimidate Christie of today.

“Both candidates’ failures to give specifics have frustrated Ohioans. My guess is that Strickland can get away with that more because he does have a record as governor,” Mayer says. “He’s like a bowl of oatmeal — it’s bland, you know what it is, and it’s gonna fill up your belly maybe, but you’re not gonna really get excited about that bowl of oatmeal. Kasich is like a spicy burrito. You might want it, but you don’t know if it’s too spicy, or if there are some ingredients in there you may not like. But if you knew a little more about what was in it, and how spicy it was, you might be more willing to trade that bowl of oatmeal for that spicy breakfast burrito.”

According to a poll conducted by the Buckeye Institute in July, 85 percent of Ohio voters support making the the Buckeye State a right-to-work state. Moreover, when it comes to options for fixing the state’s finances, raising taxes attracts only 16 percent support, coming in dead last behind cutting spending (36 percent) and cutting public-sector-employee compensation (43 percent). Yet Kasich has declined to support right-to-work legislation and has not taken a strong stance against the overcompensation of public employees — or even specified spending he would cut, for that matter.

Some observers, however, disagree that it’s time for Kasich to get specific. Jon Keeling, author of the conservative Ohio-based blog Third Base Politics, argues that “it’s too late to really inform people about anything substantial.” Rather, Keeling says, “the most effective strategy at this point is to take advantage of Strickland’s flatlined support, and that’s done by utilizing the promises Strickland made in his 2006 campaign against him.”

What is not contested is that if Kasich wants to return to the commanding poll margins of last month, he needs to offer what Phyllis Schlafly would call a choice, not an echo, either by drawing contrasts between himself and Strickland’s failed record, or by putting forward dynamic ideas of his own. Ted Strickland has been triangulating his way into desperate “me-tooism” — but Kasich’s fragile lead dictates that he should avoid doing the same, given that his support has its roots in hope for an innovative political vision. As Kasich said at the conclusion of the final gubernatorial debate, it’s morning in Ohio. He needs to give Ohioans something to wake up to.

– Mytheos Holt covers Ohio for National Review Online’s Battle ’10 blog.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: johnkasich; ohio; teaparty; tedstrickland

1 posted on 10/13/2010 7:01:55 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

The Ohio demographics have changed and I don’t think this article fully accounts for it.

Kasich will curb-stomp STrickland in Central Ohio. Usually Columbus is a democrat town but Kasich will do much better than average there.

Kasich leading in the independent likely voters means he’s also doing well with the very people that voted Strickland into office over KEn Blackwell - and that’s the very bloc that abandoned the GOP (if not in party affiliation then in voting) after the Bubba Bob Taft regime.

Strickland is relatively conservative when compared to most Ohio Democrats, but his base is even less motivated than the Ohio conservatives allegedly are....

2 posted on 10/13/2010 7:06:06 AM PDT by MikefromOhio (There is no truth to the rumor that Ted Kennedy was buried at sea.....)
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To: SeekAndFind

I think Kasich will win by about 8 to 12 pts, but he could have done better.

He was a good Congressman but isn’t the kind of guy who “excites” people. He’ll be a good Governor for Ohio, but his campaigning style leaves a bit to be desired.

3 posted on 10/13/2010 7:07:20 AM PDT by RockinRight (if the choice is between Crazy and Commie, I choose Crazy.)
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To: RockinRight

then again, “Exciting Governor of Ohio” is a bit of an oxymoron

4 posted on 10/13/2010 7:11:13 AM PDT by Buckeye McFrog
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To: Buckeye McFrog

We all new democratic polls would show this towards the end.

5 posted on 10/13/2010 7:14:58 AM PDT by scooby321
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To: SeekAndFind

In most all polls Strickland has been stuck in the 42 to 43% range. I’m not sure what the whole NR article is all about. Kasich is the challenger and he is leading in all recent polls, but he has lost his 17 point advantage from one earlier poll, and that makes for a story?

6 posted on 10/13/2010 7:28:27 AM PDT by Loyal Buckeye
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To: RockinRight
I think Kasich will win by about 8 to 12 pts, but he could have done better.

8 to 12 pts. is a butt-whoopin in my book. That would be 54 to 46 to 56 to 44.

7 posted on 10/13/2010 7:31:21 AM PDT by Loyal Buckeye
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To: Loyal Buckeye

I was skeptical of that poll indicating a 17% advantage to begin with, so maybe his lead hasn’t shrunk as much as suggested in this article.

Kasich is not a Tea Party conservative. If elected, I’m guessing he will be a Voinovich type governor, still an improvement over Strickland.

8 posted on 10/13/2010 7:34:46 AM PDT by Comparative Advantage
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To: Loyal Buckeye

Rasmussen today has him only by 3, 48% to 45%, not sure whats going on here?

9 posted on 10/13/2010 7:35:22 AM PDT by sunmars
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To: Loyal Buckeye

True, but I’d prefer to see a victory comparable to McDonnell’s in VA.

10 posted on 10/13/2010 7:37:01 AM PDT by RockinRight (if the choice is between Crazy and Commie, I choose Crazy.)
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To: Comparative Advantage

I’d give him a bit more credit than a Voinovich type, but he won’t be a Chris Christie, either.

11 posted on 10/13/2010 7:38:23 AM PDT by RockinRight (if the choice is between Crazy and Commie, I choose Crazy.)
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To: sunmars

How is Portman, who is MUCH more milquetoast in my opinion than Kasich, running away with the Senate race yet Kasich having trouble in the Governor’s race?

Both will win but that’s a bit disturbing to see Rassmussen showing him at only 3% ahead.

12 posted on 10/13/2010 7:39:41 AM PDT by RockinRight (if the choice is between Crazy and Commie, I choose Crazy.)
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To: RockinRight

The senate race is much less noticed and Portman is receiving a big windfall from the overall anti-Democrat wave in the state. Conversely, people are paying more attention to the governor’s race and judging the candidates differently.

13 posted on 10/13/2010 7:45:40 AM PDT by Comparative Advantage
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To: SeekAndFind

2 things -

1. hard for Kasich to run as an “outsider” - anti-Washington.

2. Polls are full of crap. He will win by 10+.

Here is my poll methd -

Take last result. Deduct 7.5% from Dem. Add 7.5% for Rep. Throw a few points one way or the other if one candidate is particularly good or bad. Mix.

Any Dem who didn’t win previously by 10% is toast. They need 20% prior margin to be safe.

14 posted on 10/13/2010 8:01:27 AM PDT by Eldon Tyrell
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To: Eldon Tyrell

I imagine that the Strickland campaign has been somewhat effective in portraying Kasich as a Wall St insider with all of the advertising they have done.

15 posted on 10/13/2010 8:08:25 AM PDT by Comparative Advantage
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To: Eldon Tyrell; Chet 99
Polls are full of crap

actually they are not wrong very often, that is a canard or myth and many here believe it and we argue it the whole way through every election

what does happen though is that polls can lag and the last poll if taken say 1-2 weeks prior to election can be off a good bit on election day or outlier biased polls which oversample Dems as a known percentage can be off a bit....ABC and the network/WashPo polls used to do this

but the days like Truman-Dewey are over....Rassmussen, Zogby, Gallup, etc...the professionals...they will all be with the margin or close

I pinged our resident pitbull and poll poster

16 posted on 10/13/2010 8:08:40 AM PDT by wardaddy (the redress over anything minority is a cancer in our country...stage 4)
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To: Eldon Tyrell

RE: hard for Kasich to run as an “outsider” - anti-Washington.

The thing about Kasich is he’s been everywhere.

He was a long time Congressman, then a media personality, then an Investment Banker.

Anyone can find fault with his background as long as his background is unpopular with a certain group.

Anti-Washington ? He’s a Washington insider.

Greedy Investment Banker who helped cause the financial crisis? He was a tio ranked manager at Lehman Brothers...

You just can’t satisfy everyone.

17 posted on 10/13/2010 8:13:42 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I personally have yet to hear of one person here in Ohio who is voting for Strickland.Usually his name is proceeded by d@med or some other sort of adjective along those lines.

18 posted on 10/13/2010 9:37:54 AM PDT by chris_bdba
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To: RockinRight

Portman has a significant financial edge over Fisher. Kasich doesn’t have that same edge over Strickland. I don’t think I even saw a Fisher ad until around Labor Day. Strickland has been on a major ad blitz where he basically portrays himself as an anti-Wall Street conservative.

19 posted on 10/13/2010 11:37:46 AM PDT by conservativebuckeye
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To: wardaddy

Polls will very often narrow or “tighten” as an election draws closer... but in the absence of any real news or change in the race, the “tightening” will loosen back to where the race was originally.

20 posted on 10/13/2010 1:34:01 PM PDT by Chet 99
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