After a long wait, about five months, Quinnipiac has released another poll on the gubernatorial race in Ohio.
The results are none too surprising. Governor John Kasich has a 52% job approval rating, which is two points off his 54% approval rating in June, and 48% of voters feel he deserves to be re-elected. He leads Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald 44%-37% in a head-to-head, which has tightened from a 14-point margin in the last poll. Kasich has maintained a sizeable lead with independents and men, and even edges FitzGerald by one point with women.
FitzGerald continues to try to erase a name identification problem – 71% of voters don’t know enough about him to form an opinion according to the poll. Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said “FitzGerald has a long way to go to introduce himself to the voters of Ohio. Only about one in four voters know enough about him to have an opinion, meaning three in four don’t know much about him.”
That indicates there may be a lot of ground for FitzGerald to make up as voters become familiar with him, as long as they like what they see. Although, this is a lot more about Gov. Kasich than FitzGerald, as these types of races are typically a referendum on the incumbent. Only after voters decide how they feel about the governor, will they move on to form an opinion about the challenger.
Which is why Gov. Kasich’s job approval is the most important re-election indicator. It’s typically said that a candidate with an approval rating at 50% or higher is relatively safe. In 2012, President Obama’s job approval rating was the best indicator of his Election Day vote share. And according to Nate Silver, presidential job approval ratings have been very accurate in predicting election results over the years. The magic job approval number for presidential incumbents to be re-elected has been somewhere in the high 40’s.
It’s not much of a stretch to expect the same rules to apply at the state level. A Quinnipiac poll in mid-October 2010 showed incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland with a 39% job approval rating. While he outperformed that number by quite a bit on Election Day (it most likely improved from Oct. 17 to Election Day), it was nonetheless an accurate indicator of the result.