The poll has the state treasurer's race as a dead heat.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Gov. Bob Taft maintains a double-digit lead in his re-election bid, but his Democratic opponent has gained a little ground, according to a state poll.
Taft, a Republican seeking re-election, led Democrat Tim Hagan by 23 percentage points, 55 percent to 32 percent, in the latest Ohio Poll, released Wednesday. But Taft led Hagan by 29 percentage points in the prior Ohio Poll, released in late April.
"No one at this headquarters would ever begin to presume that this race is going to be a double-digit race," said Jason Mauk, Ohio Republican Party spokesman.
"We fully expect this race will be narrow and will come down to the wire. Ohio is a competitive two-party state and this race will be close."
Hagan said he does not put much stock in polls until after Labor Day, but he is encouraged by his improvement.
"This campaign is a referendum on Taft and his failed leadership," Hagan said.
Taft's net favorability rating -- the percentage who have a favorable opinion minus the percentage of those who have an unfavorable opinion -- dropped 7 percent from the April poll to 29 percent.
Hagan's net favorability rating increased by 1 percent to 9 percent, placing him behind every nonjudicial Republican candidate running for statewide office this year.
Taft holds a dominating 66 percent to 23 percent lead in southwest Ohio, where he is from, and is most vulnerable in northeast Ohio, where Hagan resides. Taft's lead over Hagan in northeast Ohio is 49 percent to 38 percent.
State Democrats are traditionally skeptical of the results of the Ohio Poll, sponsored by the University of Cincinnati, saying it has a bias in favor of Republicans.
Also, the poll showed the lead Democrat Mary Boyle had over Treasurer Joseph T. Deters, the Republican incumbent, is gone. The poll had Boyle ahead of Deters by 10 percentage points in April. The latest poll has them in a dead-heat each with 40 percent of the vote each.
It has been reported that Deters directed campaign donations to the Hamilton County Republican Party, which he once headed, and was the beneficiary of most of that money, and that a majority of his campaign contributions came from people with ties to his office. Deters has denied the allegations.
Pollster Eric W. Rademacher wrote in his report that the campaign finance issue "does not appear to be generating a negative image of Deters in the minds of registered voters."
The telephone poll of 623 registered voters was conducted June 17 through Sunday and has a 3.9 percent margin of error.
Republican candidates have double-digit leads over their Democratic counterparts in other statewide nonjudicial races.
"We're happy with the results of the latest poll," Mauk said. "It's an accurate reflection of the support we're receiving from residents of Ohio."
Ohio Auditor Jim Petro, a Republican, leads state Sen. Leigh Herington, a Democrat, 49 percent to 28 percent in the state attorney general's race. Petro's lead over Herington grew by 4 percentage points compared to the April poll.
Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, a Republican, is opening a bigger lead on state Rep. Bryan Flannery, his Democratic challenger. Blackwell leads Flannery 48 percent to 28 percent in the latest poll, an increase of 8 percentage points from the April survey.
Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, a Republican, continues to enjoy a 30-point lead over former Cleveland Councilwoman Helen Smith, a Democrat, in the state auditor's race.
The latest poll asked people about the two Ohio Supreme Court races between Republican Maureen O'Connor and Democrat Tim Black, and between Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Janet Burnside.
O'Connor has a lead of 23 percent to 8 percent over Black, but 69 percent of those polled said they either knew too little to say or didn't know when asked how they will vote in the race.
In the other race, 89 percent of those polled said they either knew too little or didn't know when asked how they will vote. Of those who had a preferred candidate, Burnside got 6 percent of the vote and Stratton got 4 percent.