COLUMBUS, Ohio – Former Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s polling has him remaining at the head of the pack among Republicans vying for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate.
The poll also shows venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elogy” author J.D. Vance still well behind in second place and Cleveland businessman Mike Gibbons edging out former Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken.
The poll through Washington, D.C.-based WPA Intelligence shows Mandel with support of 37 percent of the 510 GOP voters questioned in a live operator poll conducted September 20-23. Vance received 13 percent, Gibbons garnered 8 percent, and Timken got 6 percent of the votes.
The poll has a potential margin of error of up to 4.3 percentage points.
“This mirrors the other polls with Josh is the high 30s,” said Mandel campaign manager Scott Gutherie. “We think that’s a base and there’s a lot of room to grow.”
Gutherie noted the Mandel campaign, unlike those for Vance, Timken and Gibbons, has yet to start TV ads but has done some social media ads focused on fundraising.
Gibbons in late July launched a $9.9 million media buy through the May 3 primary, with an expectation of $2.9 million of that getting spent by year’s end.
That campaign said poll performance is not its top priority as Gibbons nears the end of a two-month barnstorming of Ohio’s 88 counties.
“The Gibbons campaign is focused on building our grassroots army,” Campaign Senior Adviser Samantha Cotten wrote in an email to The Ohio Star, “pushing our message through television, and meeting voters throughout the Buckeye State.”
Timken’s campaign questioned the reliability of Mandel’s polling.
“Numbers can be manipulated,” Timken Communications Director Mandi Merritt wrote in an email in response to an inquiry from The Star, “and that’s exactly what these numbers are.”
Seven candidates have actively joined the race for the GOP nomination, – most recently Ohio Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) to replace U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). An eighth potential candidate, U.S. Representative Mike Turner (R-OH-10), has yet to choose between running for re-election to Congress or joining the Senate fray.
The Mandel-sponsored poll shows Dolan and Cleveland businessman Bernie Moreno at 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
Pukita Polling Paints a Different Picture
Mandel’s poll did not list Turner or suburban Columbus businessman and GOP reform candidate Mark Pukita as options.
An internal poll Pukita shared with The Star paints a different picture.
In that poll, Mandel has a narrower lead over Vance and 45 percent of those voters are undecided seven months before GOP voters go to the polls.
In an August test poll of 10,400 Republicans and independents with a strong history of voting in primary elections, Mandel has a 22 percent showing with Vance at 14 percent and Timken at 8 percent.
Another Cleveland area businessman, Bernie Morena, pulls 2.8 percent in that poll and Pukita 1 percent.
Pukita said he believes his showing has improved as he works the county fairs and takes an active, public stance supporting efforts to reform the operations of the Ohio Republican Party.
“If we did this poll again,” he said, “I’d be at 2 or 3 percent.”
He also believes Moreno and Gibbons will continue to rise with him as more voters focus on the race and look at alternatives to the leading candidates of career politicians and celebrities.
“It’s now time for the undecideds to start weighing in,” he said. “We still have seven months until the primary, but the clock is ticking.”
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Brian R. Ball is a veteran Columbus journalist writing for The Ohio Star and Star Network News. Send him news tips at [email protected]