Columbus, Ohio (CNN) - Ohio's Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland thinks the pundits are wrong.
He tells CNN, "I don't think there is an enthusiasm gap in Ohio." As proof he cites he a state Democratic Party analysis that shows "across Ohio more Democrats have requested absentee ballots than have Republicans."
But even if that bears out, it might not be enough for the Democrat to hold onto his seat that one the state party calls "a firewall for President Obama in 2012."
A new Quinnipiac University poll out Tuesday shows Republican challenger John Kasich with 51-41 margin over Strickland. Though Strickland has spent weeks beating up on Kasich for his ties to Wall Street - he used to work for Lehman Brothers - the survey shows independents favor Kasich 59 percent to Strickland's 32 percent. The poll surveyed 1,188 likely voters by telephone between October 12-17 and carries a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percent.
Kasich agrees this is more than just a race for the Statehouse. In an interview with CNN, the Republican challenger says, "Ohio is ground zero. Barack Obama has been here 11 times and obviously this is somewhat of a referendum on his presidency."
He adds that despite the poll numbers his team is taking nothing for granted: "Right now it feels very good. For me we are very happy in the position we are in. But it is 15 days to grind it out." Kasich says "Anything can happen."
Democrats are hoping their formidable organization in the state will make the difference. The state Democratic Party on Monday held a training session with 300 workers in the effort.
And President and Mrs. Obama did their part. They were the star attraction at an Ohio State rally featuring an estimated 35,000 supporters. The also attended a fundraiser for Strickland. But the president may actually be a drag on the governor. Obama's disapproval rating is at 56 percent among Ohio voters, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
With unemployment still above 10 percent in the state, the key issue in the race is the economy and which candidate will help create more jobs.
Touring an adhesives factory Monday, Strickland told local media, "I am good for business" and emphasized his work easing the path for small business growth in the state and his support for tax reform.
"I am having an uphill fight because we have been living through a recession. We are in a fragile recovery. Jobs have not yet returned. But I think that is to be expected. If you look at what has happened historically when there are recessions and job loss, incumbents have a more difficult time. But in spite of that, I think I am going to win and that is going to be a surprise to a lot of people who assumed Ohio was going to be in the Republican column this year," Strickland told CNN.
On a swing through the state Monday visiting several GOP events, Kasich emphasized his fiscal expertise and said he would push for the state to enact more tax cuts to spur job growth and would balance the budget. although he will not say exactly what he may need to cut to do that.
"There are only three things that matter in this state right now: creating jobs, creating jobs and creating jobs. I also want to create a team of people who can go out and speak the language of business. You don't want to rely on bureaucrats who really don't have business training to get that job done. We've lost 400,000 jobs. I want to completely restructure the way we do it and get business people talking to business people," Kasich told CNN Monday.