Ohio’s first major presidential poll in five months shows Gov. John Kasich surging, but not by enough to overtake billionaire Donald Trump in the Buckeye State’s coveted winner-take-all primary March 15.

Kasich’s campaign, as it did in New Hampshire, is counting on a second-place finish or better March 8 in Michigan, where the Ohio governor is spending much of his time. But anything other than first in Ohio, a state where second place yields zero delegates, could be the end of the road for the two-term governor’s bid for the presidency.

“A Kasich Ohio win is crucial to the Republicans trying to stop the New York businessman’s nomination. If Trump can defeat Kasich in his home state, that would be an impressive demonstration of his strength in a state that is just now getting attention. But Trump’s lead is just 5 points, certainly not large enough for him to breathe easy,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, which released the most recent poll Tuesday.

The Quinnipiac poll shows Trump adding to his lead in Ohio, from 23 percent in October to 31 percent this month. Kasich doubled his share of support, coming in a close second with 26 percent, then Cruz at 21 percent, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 13 percent and retired brain surgeon Ben Carson, who has fallen to the back of the thinned-out Republican field after a momentary surge placed him second in Ohio in October.

The upshot, Brown said, is that Trump continues to gain momentum, especially with top-place finishes in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

“The Donald Trump train begins the three-week campaign for Ohio’s crucial delegates on the right track and holds a small lead over the Buckeye State’s own governor, John Kasich,” Brown said.

The poll also found room for Kasich to make his hometown case, with 38 percent of Republicans who picked a candidate saying they hadn’t ruled out a change of heart.

Trump also has the most loyal voters; 78 percent of Trump supporters say they’ve locked on their choice.

Yet 36 percent of all likely Republican primary voters gave Trump an unfavorable rating. No other candidate was seen as unfavorably.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders 55-40 among likely Democratic primary voters surveyed in the poll.

“Former Secretary Hillary Clinton has a solid double-digit lead over Sen. Sanders, but anything can happen in three weeks of presidential politics,” Brown said.

The Quinnipiac poll, conducted Feb. 16-20, surveyed 759 Republican and 518 Democratic likely primary voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points for Republican results and plus or minus 4.3 percentage points for Democratic results. Land lines and cellphones were called.

Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or dlivingston@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow on Twitter: @DougLivingstonABJ.