Since the moment he took office as Ohio’s governor, John Kasich represented a big target for Democrats. And when voters rejected a the Republican-passed law restricting the collective-bargaining rights of public employees in a public referendum in November 2011, Ohio Democrats licked their lips, perceiving a quite vulnerable incumbent.
Today . . . not quite so much. Kasich isn’t quite secure in his bid for a second term, but his outlook is considerably brighter.
But while a recent Quinnipiac Poll showed voters still don’t believe Mr. Kasich has earned a second term, his numbers have slowly improved in recent months. His job approval rating recently moved into positive territory.
“Barring some unpredictable issue, time is on the governor’s side,” said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. “Most people believe the economy will continue to improve. It may be a rocky road in a general sense, but most believe we’ll continue to see improvement. That helps the governor.
“One of the reasons polls show criticism of the governor is he had tried a lot of policy innovations to get the economy moving,” he said. “Some were popular. Some were very unpopular. But the more time he has, the more opportunity for those policies to work.”
And in something of a surprise, the man Kasich beat in 2010, Ted Strickland, declined a rematch in 2014, issuing a 395-word statement that never quite mentioned why he was not running again. Whatever the reasoning was, Ohio Republicans want the decision to be interpreted as a response to Kasich’s improving record.
State GOP chairman Bob Bennett said:
Ohio has made giant leaps in progress in two short years under John Kasich, and it will be hard for any Democrat to argue why he shouldn’t continue to create jobs for hardworking Ohio families and put Ohio back on the right track.
Strickland’s decision is likely to set up a contested gubernatorial primary for Democrats:
Most party sources agreed Tuesday that [Cuyahoga County Executive Ed] FitzGerald, 44, has the strongest claim to the nomination given his heavily Democratic base in Cuyahoga County and the preparations he already has made. But others could be drawn into the race now that Strickland is out of the picture. The possibilities include former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of the Youngstown area and Betty Sutton, the recently unseated congresswoman from Copley Township.
Lightning might strike twice for the Ohio GOP; a nasty primary with lingering resentment hurt that state’s Democrats in the 2010 Senate race, as well.