(CNN) – The Republicans are in the driver's seat in Ohio's Senate and gubernatorial races, according to a new poll. And a CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday indicates that Independent voters may be a key reason for the GOP's advantage.
Fifty-two percent of likely voters questioned in the poll back Ohio Republican Senate nominee Rob Portman, with 41 percent supporting Democrat Lee Fisher, the state's Lieutenant Governor. Portman is a former representative and a Bush administration budget director. The winner in November will succeed retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich.
"Fisher is doing well in the Cleveland area, his home base, and he manages a tie with Portman in the northern industrial portions of the state. But Portman has a huge lead in the remaining regions of the state, including a 21-point edge in the Cincinnati area, where he comes from," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Portman also has a two-to-one advantage among Independents."
In the gubernatorial battle, the survey indicates that Republican challenger and former congressman John Kasich holds a 51 to 44 percent advantage over Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
"Geographically, the difference between Portman and Kasich is the Cincinnati/Dayton region. That's Portman's home territory, and he gets 57 percent there. But Kasich, who comes from Columbus, is only pulling 44 percent in southwestern Ohio, with Strickland capturing a majority of likely voters in that area," Holland notes. "That's not enough to put Strickland ahead of Kasich, but it does make the gubernatorial contest a tighter race than the battle for the Senate."
According to the survey, Kasich holds a 16 point advantage among Independent voters.
Besides being a battleground in this year's midterm elections, Ohio is also in the political spotlight since it's a crucial state in the fight for the White House.
The CNN/Time/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted September 10-14, with 820 likely Ohio voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error for likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report