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Kasich gains on Trump in latest Ohio poll

Kasich gains on Trump in latest Ohio poll
Posted at 6:38 PM, Mar 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-07 23:01:10-05

CINCINNATI -- Donald Trump and John Kasich continue to hold the top spots heading in Ohio's Republican presidential primary next week, with the Ohio governor picking up some ground compared to late February.

Trump stands at 38 percent to Kasich's 35 percent in a race Public Policy Polling calls "pretty fluid:" When PPP surveyed 638 likely Republican voters between Friday and Sunday, only 69 percent had committed to a candidate, leaving another 31 percent up for grabs.

And, PPP found, people were more likely to choose Kasich over Trump if forced to pick between just the two of them.

As one might expect, Kasich leads Trump among self-described moderates, while Trump has the "very conservative" voters planning to support him.

And Trump typically leads among voters who make up their minds early, according to PPP, with 80 percent of his Ohio supporters saying they'll "definitely" vote for him. But, pollsters found, that might also mean Trump doesn't have a lot of room to grow, increasing the possibility that Kasich will win his home state.

Kasich has repeatedly expressed confidence that he'll win Ohio, which, like Florida's primary the same day, is a winner-takes all contest for its 66 delegates.

The PPP poll's margin of error is 3.9 percent.

Other interesting stats from the PPP poll:

  • Roughly 52 percent of voters committed to Trump believe former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes; 21 percent believe he was murdered, and 27 percent aren't sure
  • For comparison, 68 percent of Kasich's voters believe Scalia died naturally
  • Trump's voters in Ohio are twice as likely to support the Ku Klux Klan as Republicans overall (6 percent compared to 3 percent)

In Ohio's Democratic presidential primary, PPP found Hillary Clinton holds a 56-35 lead over Bernie Sanders, with a 4.4 percent margin of error.

Ohio holds its primaries March 15.

Trump also led Kasich, though by a wider margin, in Quinnipiac University poll released Feb. 23. In that case, Trump's support stood at 31 percent, with Kasich at 26 percent, and a margin of error at 3.6 percent.

Hundreds of Ohioans have flocked north over the past few days, hoping to convince neighboring Michiganders to support Kasich in that state's primary Tuesday. Kasich’s campaign estimates 1,000 volunteers are knocking on doors and making phone calls for him.

IN DEPTH: What campaign volunteers are hearing in Michigan

One poll out Saturday shows Kasich beating front-runner Donald Trump in the Michigan primary. Another poll from Monmouth University out Monday showed him tied for second. Several campaign volunteers said voters tell them they’re giving the Ohio governor a second look after Thursday’s debate. Kasich's campaign also says, since Thursday, he's had his best fundraising numbers since his second-place finish to Trump in New Hampshire.

If Kasich receives at least 15 percent of the vote in Michigan, he will be awarded a proportionate share of the 59 Republican delegates.

MORE: How GOP may use Kasich to stop Trump

“Kasich really has to make headway; he has to win something before March 15,” said Dan Birdsong, a University of Dayton political science lecturer. “A close second in Michigan with almost 60 delegates can be a good thing for him.”

Kasich finished winless on Super Tuesday last week, but he wasn’t expected to perform well in conservative southern states. He earned a strong second in Massachusetts and barely lost first place in Vermont to Trump.

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WCPO's Amanda Seitz contributed to this report from Lansing, Michigan.