CINCINNATI — With early voting underway, the Exclusive Spectrum News/Siena College poll reveals most statewide races are closely contested with one notable exception. Gov. Mike DeWine not only maintains a comfortable lead in the polls against former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, but his favorability has also increased since September.

Poll results show him in a double-digit lead among Ohio likely voters, as Whaley’s poll results show nearly half of voters have little to no opinion of her at all.

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Mike DeWine has a double-digit lead in the polls

  • Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley is falling behind on name recognition among voters

  • DeWine has a net positive favorability, helping his chances of re-election

  • His favorability among independents and Democrats differs greatly from other statewide Republicans

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A quarter of respondents reported a favorable opinion of Whaley and about 47% of democrats, but according to David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati, Whaley’s lack of favorability among independents will likely be her undoing.

“Half of independents have no opinion of Nan Whaley,” he said. “Well, you can’t possibly win in Ohio as a democrat without doing well among independents.”

John Foren, the executive director of Miami University’s Menard Family Center for Democracy, said Whaley was already coming in at a disadvantage facing an incumbent republican, in a midterm election year that’s likely to disfavor democrats, but DeWine made matters even more difficult by refusing to debate or even say much about her on the campaign trail.

“His campaign is to largely ignore his opponent, and it appears to be working,” he said. 

DeWine’s strategy instead seems to be to draw voters' attention to milestones happening across the state. 

“The themes are clearly, it’s pro-Ohio, pro-business,” he said. "Ohioans seem to be saying that Ohio is headed in the right direction and that’s good for an incumbent governor.”

Despite other republican candidates though, Niven said it’s significant that DeWine’s support goes beyond party lines. Among republicans, his favorability is 66%, for independents, 62%, and among democrats, 41%.

“That’s a formula for winning,” he said. “Even though, on policies, he’s very conservative. He’s out of step with the average Ohio voter on abortion. He’s out of step with the average Ohio voter on gun violence prevention, but he’s transcended that.”

It’s a starkly different picture than polls show for the Senate race, where Republican candidate JD Vance is in a toss-up race with Democrat Tim Ryan, which is why Foren believes candidates from both sides of the aisle have so far avoided campaigning together. 

“[DeWine and Vance] are not campaigning as a team because they are very different republicans,” he said. “DeWine has nothing to gain by campaigning with Vance. Vance arguably would have something to gain by campaigning with DeWine at this point.”

Niven describes DeWine as an establishment Republican in the vein of his predecessor Gov. John Kasich or Senator Rob Portman, and while he seems in good form to hold on to his seat in November, Niven expects the next Republicans to follow in his footsteps to look very different.

“He’s going to be the last of them standing and this is almost certainly the last time his name will be on the ballot,” he said. “The next generation of Republican candidates is much harsher and fiercer and much more closely aligned with Donald Trump.”