By David Skolnick
Ohio Democrats kicked off a tour of the state highlighting the difference between ex-Gov. Ted Strickland, their nominee for U.S. Senate, and incumbent Republican Rob Portman.
On Tuesday, at the United Auto Workers Local 1112 union hall in North Jackson, near the Lordstown General Motors complex, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, and Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson spoke about Strickland’s leadership in support of the 2009 auto bailout.
“The auto rescue is a perfect example that Ted Strickland is the only candidate in this race that Ohioans can trust to stand up for them in the U.S. Senate,” Johnson said. “While Ted Strickland was fighting for our auto industry during the ‘Great Recession,’ Sen. Portman opposed the auto rescue, claiming it was a ‘lousy deal for Ohio.’”
Portman acknowledged he said the rescue was a “lousy deal” because Ohio lost more auto dealerships than any other state except Pennsylvania, people – including Delphi retired salaried employees – lost or had their pensions significantly reduced, and the state had four auto plants shut down.
Portman points to full statements he made at the time, however, and since, that if he was in the U.S. House, he would have voted for the rescue.
“Maybe they’re getting desperate and making stuff up,” Portman said of Strickland supporters contending he didn’t back the rescue.
State Democrats had planned the statewide tour – that also will include stops in Toledo, Cincinnati, Massillon and Sandusky, among other locations – weeks ago, Pepper said.
But also in recent weeks, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Senate Majority PAC – the Senate Democrats’ largest political action committee – have canceled about $7 million in television commercials attacking Portman as polls show Strickland falling further behind the incumbent. Of the $7 million, Senate Majority PAC canceled $3 million Tuesday for ads that were to run Sept. 20 to Oct. 10.
Portman has a 7.5-percentage-point lead over Strickland, according to RealClearPolitics.com, a website that aggregates polling data.
Portman and his allies have spent about $31 million to $37 million on TV commercials while Strickland and his supporters have spent about $16 million.
All the money spent attacking Strickland has hurt him in the polls, Pepper said, but anyone besides the former governor would be about 17 to 20 percentage points behind.
“It’s a tough race, but there remains a path to victory,” Pepper said.
Strickland may join the Ohio Democratic tour, Pepper said.
Strickland didn’t campaign Tuesday, the first day of the tour, and made no public appearances.
“Campaign organizations are reflections of candidates, their records and their successes or failures,” Michawn Rich, a Portman campaign spokeswoman said. “Ted Strickland is running an awful campaign and losing support because he can’t hide from his failed record.”
“There’s still a lot of race left to run, and there’s no one who knows Ohio better or is a stronger grass-roots campaigner than Ted Strickland,” said David Bergstein, his spokesman. “We just launched our paid media campaign, the national environment is rapidly deteriorating around Portman, he’s facing a daily firestorm about his continued support for [Donald] Trump,” the Republican presidential nominee.
Most polls show Clinton holding a slim lead over Trump in Ohio, but one released Tuesday by The Washington Post has Trump ahead by 3 percentage points in the state. Also, a Tuesday poll by CNN has Trump up 2 percentage points nationally.
On Aug. 12, two days after his first TV commercial aired, Strickland told The Vindicator the ads would be a game-changer. At the time, RealClearPolitics.com had him trailing Portman by 6.4 percentage points. It’s now 7.5 percentage points.