Gov. John Kasich’s remarkable rebound continues in Ohio

February 28, 2013

Ohio Gov. John Kasich's (R) ascent in the polls continued Thursday with a new Quinnipiac University survey showing his approval rating has hit an all-time high.

It's hard to overstate the depths from which Kasich has climbed since 2011.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R). (Rick Osentoski/AP)

"I just think that as governor, Kasich has looked at and asked Ohioans to look at the big picture," said Ohio Republican strategist Curt Steiner.

Whatever picture Ohio voters are looking at with regard to Kasich, they are liking it more than they did just a couple of years ago. Fifty-three percent now approve of the job the governor is doing, compared with just 32 percent who disapprove. Kasich's approval rating hovered in the mid-40s in Quinnipiac polls for much of 2012, and it was as low as 30 percent in 2011. That same year, Kasich hit what was arguably the nadir of his tenure when his law curbing collective bargaining was overturned by voters in a referendum.

But since then, Kasich's image has very much been on the mend. A Washington Post poll taken last fall showed his approval rating to be above 50 percent. And a plurality of voters (46) now say he deserves to be reelected, according to the Quinnipiac poll. In the last Quinnipiac survey, only 36 percent said he deserved a second term.

It certainly doesn't hurt Kasich that the Buckeye State's economy has performed better than most, with an unemployment rate lower than the majority of states. What's more, a plurality of voters in the latest Quinnipiac poll approve the way Kasich is handling the state budget.

Still, Kasich's no lock for reelection. Indeed, he should be encouraged by his approval rating trend. But against potential Democratic opponents, Kasich leads, but attracts less than 50 percent of the vote.

One of those potential candidates is Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, a former FBI special agent who Democratic strategists have been bullish about. FitzGerald appears poised to announce his campaign in the next few weeks, but nothing is official yet.

Democrats contend that Kasich is still vulnerable, and that once voters become more familiar with his record, they won't like what they see. "As voters get hit with his disastrous policies -- which are the very same as those that devastated Ohio's economy in the first place -- the less there will be to like about the failed Kasich record," said Democratic Governors Association spokesman Danny Kanner.

Kasich's standing is a reminder that a four-year term as the head of a state is a marathon more than it is a sprint. That should serve as a second reminder that a lot can happen to either improve or diminish the governor's standing before November 2014.

As Aaron Blake recently noted, a number of governors have experienced roller-coaster public approval rides during the past two years. Kasich is one of the best the examples of a governor who has overcome a very rocky first couple of years to put himself in a very competitive position for reelection.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.
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