Poll: Ohio Governor Leading Democratic Challenger

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With a little less than a year until the November 2014 General Election, Gov. John Kasich maintains a lead over his likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald while his approval rating remains about 50 percent.

Kasich leads FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County Executive, 44 to 37 percent.  Kasich's approval is at 52 percent, with only 33 percent of Ohioans who disapprove of his job performance.

"On the plus side, Kasich's approval ratings mark a huge turnaround from his first two years, when his job approval was in the 30s and Democrats were licking their chops at the prospect of making him a one-termer," said Quinnipiac University pollster Peter Brown.  "But he enters his reelection year with only a seven point lead over a largely unknown challenger."

More importantly for Kasich, he now leads FitzGerald among critical Independent voters 43 to 31 percent.

"Governor Kasich is leading among women, Independents by 12 points and amongst men," said Mike Gonidakis, a Republican strategist and president of Ohio Right to Life.  "The one question I think stands out is that 93 percent of the people in the poll think John Kasich deserves credit for the economy getting better as opposed to 58 percent for president Obama."

Democrats counter that Kasich's numbers are weak even before FitzGerald starts campaigning.

"John Kasich's numbers are trending down and in the head-to-head he's far below 50 percent," said Liz Brown, Executive Director of the Ohio Democratic Party.  "There's a long 11 months ahead of us.  As more Ohioans get to know Ed FitzGerald's record John Kasich's numbers will continue to trend downward."

The poll did not include Libertarian candidate Charlie Earl who could pick up support from the tea party and conservatives upset with Kasich's decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio.

"Because of Kasich's Medicaid expansions, 24 percent of Republicans say they are less likely to vote for him," said Brown.  "History tells us, however, that many of those alienated Party members come home on Election Day because they find the other candidates less palatable."