By the time Ohio's 2012 Republican presidential primary rolls around in June, the GOP nominee is likely to have been long decided.
And while it's still seems unlikely that Herman Cain will be that nominee given his campaign's relative lack of money and ground troops, you can't ignore the former Godfather Pizza CEO's five percentage lead over Mitt Romney in a Quinnipiac University poll of Republican voters released Wednesday. Cain was at 28 percent versus Romney's 23 percent.
Romney may be doing all that he can to maintain the aura that he's the inevitable GOP nominee but many Republicans clearly intend to resist him as long as possible.
Not only does the poll add to the evidence that Romney could have real difficulty positively energizing Republican voters, it gives Obama's supporters some reasons for optimism.
The survey shows Obama with leads over Cain, Romney and Perry, though his four percentage point lead over Romney is the smallest over those three GOP candidates. The poll's margin of error is plus/minus 2.4 percentage points.
Ohio is a key electoral battleground and with a 9.1 percent September unemployment rate, the same as the nation's, it would be no surprise to see Obama trailing some of the GOP candidates at this stage. But he isn't, at least not in the Quinnipiac poll.
If there was good news for Obama, there was none for Perry. He was at four percent in the survey, an implosion that mirrored what's happened nationally for him.
But, again, the GOP nomination should be decided by the time Ohio's primary rolls around in June. More like January or February.
A sidenote. It was widely reported Tuesday that Romney appeared to be distancing himself from Republican Gov. John Kasich and his unpopular anti-union Ohio law that restricts the collective-bargaining rights of public-employee unions.
Romney and his campaign left the impression Tuesday that he had no position on the law which is the subject of a voter ballot initiative next week. Some interpreted this as Romney's way of being associated with a law facing a severe voter backlash.
A new poll indicated that 57 percent of voters planned to vote "no" on a ballot question Tuesday on whether to uphold the new law. That was 25 percentage points higher than those who planned to vote "yes" for the law.
On Wednesday, however, Romney said he supports the anti-union law. An excerpt from an Associated Press story:
While he was in Ohio on Tuesday, Romney seemed to distance himself from anti-union measures that have lost popularity in recent months. Campaigning a day later, the former Massachusetts governor told reporters that he supports the ballot measure aimed at restricting collective bargaining rights for state employees.
"I'm sorry if I created any confusion in that regard. I fully support Gov. (John) Kasich's — I think it's called Question Two in Ohio. Fully support that," Romney said after visiting a local GOP office in the Washington suburbs. "Actually, on my website, I think back as early as April, I laid out that I support Question Two and Gov. Kasich's effort to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio."