COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Two of Ohio’s top Republican candidates have emerged at the front of the midterm election’s battleground, one more drastically than the other.

An Emerson College poll released Wednesday surveyed 925 Ohio voters over a two-day period in August about their preferred picks for the state’s governor and U.S. Senate races, pertinent issues – even peppering in questions about Mar-a-Lago and monkeypox.

Consistent with earlier predictions, the Emerson College poll positioned incumbent Gov. Mike DeWine with a 16-point lead over his Democratic challenger, dominating former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley 49% to 33%.

Ohioans are more divided, however, when it comes to the two contenders in a competitive matchup to replace Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring at the end of his term. 

Republican J.D. Vance, who secured former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in May, received 45% of voter support in the Emerson College poll, just three percentage points higher than Democratic opponent and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s 42% of the vote.

While the right-wing venture capitalist and author of Hillbilly Elegy gained a narrow lead in the poll, the gap between him and his left-of-center challenger is within the poll’s 3.2% margin of error.

“Both Vance and Ryan have strong bases of support, and the race tightens to a one-point lead for Vance among the very motivated and very likely voters in Ohio, whereas Vance leads by a larger margin among somewhat likely and somewhat motivated voters,” Spencer Kimball, executive director of Emerson College polling, said.

Ryan succumbed to his opponent in the “ballot test,” as the poll called it, but he outperformed Vance on favorability. Of those surveyed, 54% had either a very or somewhat favorable perception of Ryan – compared with the 50% who saw the same in Vance.

The gender divide in Ohio’s U.S. Senate race is stark, the Emerson College poll found. Women proffered their support for Ryan over Vance by 15 points, whereas men favored Vance by 20 points.

As for the most pressing issues for Ohio voters in November, 50% said the economy, including jobs, inflation and taxes, according to the poll. The economy was followed by abortion (12%), healthcare (10%), and crime and education tied with 8%.

“Voters who are most concerned about the economy break for Vance over Ryan by a 35-point margin,” Kimball said. “On the other hand, those who say abortion access and healthcare break for Ryan over Vance by 83- and 66-point margins.”

Pollsters also asked Ohio voters about the FBI’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, which uncovered nearly a dozen sets of classified material. A hypothetical question – Trump or Biden for president in 2024 – revealed that 53% of Ohio midterm voters would vote for Trump, compared with only 39% for Biden.

Of the nearly 1,000 respondents, 39% said the search makes them more likely to support Trump for president in 2024, with 35% saying they are less likely to support him after the search. Twenty-seven percent said it made no difference.

“A majority of rural voters, 55%, say they are more likely to support the former president following the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago,” Kimball said. “Suburban voters are more split, 38% say it makes them less likely to support Trump and 35% say it makes them more likely to vote for the former president in two years.”

As for monkeypox, 34% of Ohio voters considered the virus as a minor public health threat in the U.S., as opposed to 31% who said it’s not a threat, the poll found. Twenty-six percent perceive it as a moderate threat, and 10% see it as a major threat.