With less than four weeks left in the 2010 midterm election cycle, Republican Rob Portman (47 percent) has opened up a 10 point lead over Democrat Lee Fisher (37 percent) in the Ohio race for U.S. Senate, according to the latest Suffolk University poll. Independent Michael Pryce has 4 percent, and just 7 percent of respondents say they remain undecided, while 4 percent said they would vote or lean towards someone not on the ballot.

Meanwhile, the race for the Governor of Ohio is much closer. Republican John Kasich (46 percent) edges Democrat Ted Strickland (42 percent) by just 4 points, though the race is within the statistical margin of error. Green Party candidate Dennis Spisak has 4 percent, followed by Libertarian Ken Matesz, with 2 percent. There are 5 percent still undecided.

“Among voters who know both Portman and Fisher, Portman led 53 percent to 36 percent. We see a similar trend among voters who know both Kasich and Strickland, where Kasich leads 48 percent to 40 percent,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Boston’s Suffolk University. “Presumably by November 2, likely voters will know both major candidates for both races and this dynamic, along with a bad economy, foreshadows a dismal outcome for both Democratic candidates.”

Few believe that the recession is over in Ohio. Only 5 percent indicate it is, while 90 percent say it’s not over. And when likely voters were asked if the job situation will improve in the next six months, only 28 percent indicated yes, while 62 percent said no.

Hillary Clinton (60 percent favorable – 33 percent unfavorable) is the most popular politician of the eight public figures polled. This mirrors findings in the Suffolk University polls of Pennsylvania and Illinois likely voters in the past two weeks. Among other figures, President Obama scores a 48 percent favorable – 46 percent unfavorable rating in Ohio.

Both Democrats in statewide elections have unfavorability ratings that surpass their favorable. Democrat for U.S. Senator Lee Fisher scores 27 percent favorable to 37 percent unfavorable, with 23 percent undecided, and Democrat for Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland scores 43 percent favorable to 45 percent unfavorable, with 10 percent undecided. All other candidates for statewide office have higher favorable ratings than unfavorable.

In the race for Attorney General, Republican Mike DeWine (44 percent) leads Democrat Richard Cordray (38 percent). In the Secretary of State and Treasurer races, Democratic candidates lead their Republican challengers. For Secretary of State, Democrat Maryellen O’Shaughnessy (40 percent) leads Republican Jon Husted (33 percent) by 7 points, and for Treasurer, Democrat Kevin Boyce (37 percent) leads Republican Josh Mandel (34 percent).

When asked to think about their local congressional races, 48 percent of likely voters said they would vote Democrat, while 41 percent said they would vote Republican, and 10 percent said they were undecided.

Current issues in Ohio that were polled included marriage equality for same-sex couples, of which 43 percent of likely voters stated they favor absolute prohibition of any legally recognized union, and 24 percent of respondents said they favored legal recognition of marriage between people of the same sex, while 18 percent said they preferred the recognition of civil unions only.

Other issues included the legalization of medical marijuana, which the Ohio state legislature voted down in House Bill 478. Forty-three percent of likely voters said marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes only, while 20 percent said it should be fully legal for personal use. Another 23 percent of respondents said it should be illegal under any circumstances, and 12 percent said marijuana laws should remain as they are – decriminalized but not fully legal.

In the bellwether Clark County, both races continued to produce leads for the Republican. In the Senate fight Portman led Fisher 43 percent to 36 percent, while in the race for governor, Kasich led Strickland 44 percent to 42 percent. In the 2006 gubernatorial election in Ohio, Clark County was within one percentage point of the state total for all gubernatorial candidates and closer than all other counties to the statewide numbers.

Methodology

The statewide survey of 500 Ohio likely voters was conducted Oct. 4-6, 2010. The margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The Clark County bellwether included 300 likely voters polled 10/5-10/6. Bellwethers are designed to predict outcomes, not margins. Marginals and full cross-tabulation data will be posted Thursday Oct. 7 at 1 p.m. on the Suffolk University Political Research Center Web site: http://www.suffolk.edu/research/1450.html. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.