The Republican race for the right to face off with Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown next fall seems to lean strongly State Treasurer Josh Mandel's way, based on our new poll and on the latest developments in the race. Polled before Rep. Jim Jordan declined a bid and instead endorsed Mandel, Mandel tops Jordan and former State Sen. Kevin Coughlin, 27-16-8, and beats Coughlin in what will now likely be a two-way race, 31-12.
Since so few voters are familiar with the candidates so far, 57% are undecided. Coughlin obviously has an opportunity, but if he stays in the race, he'll have to cast himself as a Tea-Party, anti-establishment conservative and make up a lot of ground with the furthest right voters, who make up a 41% plurality of this electorate.
The problem for Coughlin is that Jordan's nod could only further help Mandel with the far right. Mandel is already strong against Coughlin with this group, but Jordan actually tied Mandel at 22% in the three-way match-up, meaning his credibility with conservatives could only further widen the gap with Coughlin.
Just to see what would happen, we also decided to test disgraced former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel in this race. Republicans should probably not be terribly proud that, if he ran, Tressel would be their top pick. He is still popular, certainly more than any of the others, and he is more than twice as well-known as any of them, but it is at best a sign that no one is paying attention to the burgeoning race yet, and at worst a sign that there is little enthusiasm for the real candidates at this point. Tressel is almost certain not to run, but he leads with 23% over Mandel’s 17%, Jordan’s 13%, and Coughlin’s 5%, with 43% undecided, a clear indication that name recognition is the most decisive factor at this stage.
Two-thirds have an opinion of Tressel; 46% have a favorable opinion of him and 21% a negative one. By contrast, only 31% know enough about Mandel to express an opinion, but he is very well-liked (24-7). Only 22% are aware of Jordan (14-8) and a mere 15% of Coughlin (6-9).
We already showed Rick Perry leading Mitt Romney nationally by 13 points yesterday, and leading a tight four-way contest in Iowa on Tuesday. This poll, conducted a week before Perry even officially entered the race, was already showing Perry's threat to Romney's presidential chances as becoming more and more real. When PPP polled Ohio GOP primary voters three months ago, Romney led with 23% over Newt Gingrich’s 16%, Herman Cain’s and Ron Paul’s 13%, Michele Bachmann’s 11%, and Tim Pawlenty’s 6%.
Now Perry, polled for the first time here, has jumped into the lead with 21% to Romney’s 20%, Bachmann’s 14%, Cain’s 10%, Gingrich’s and Paul’s 8%, and Jon Huntsman’s 1%. Polled before he dropped out, Pawlenty got only 3% support. Perry seems to have taken a lot of support from Gingrich, Paul, and Cain, and holds a huge 28-15-13-11 lead over Bachmann, Romney, and Cain with the most conservative voters.
If Sarah Palin were to jump into the race, she would knock Bachmann from third but help Perry. Perry would hold at 21% to Romney’s 18%, Palin’s 11%, Bachmann’s 10%, Cain’s 8%, and Gingrich’s and Paul’s 7%.
Full results here.