Posted at 3:07 a.m. March 5
Republican Rob Portman of Ohio won’t lose re-election due to a lack of money, but he is running for a second term in one of the most competitive states in a tumultuous political environment. We’re changing the Rothenberg Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rating from Lean Republican to Tossup/Tilt Republican.
Fundraising is one of the senator’s strengths (he had $13 million on Feb. 24), which should allow him to introduce himself to voters who don’t remember him from his 2010 election, and remind people why they voted his opponent, former Gov. Ted Strickland, out of office the same year.
Democratic strategists regard Strickland as a recruiting coup, and he started the race with a surprisingly positive image, considering he lost re-election to Republican John Kasich. But, for a former governor, Strickland’s fundraising has been underwhelming and a primary challenge from young Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld appeared to necessitate President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden endorsing the former governor before the March 15 primary.
Strickland might not be lighting the world on fire, but he starts the general election at least even with, if not ahead of Portman.
It’s certainly possible that the incumbent overwhelms the Democrat in spending. But Democratic strategists are likely to spend what it takes to pull this seat into their column. And Portman may have to contend with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, which could require a significant number of crossover voters from the presidential race.
With the uncertainty in the Republican presidential race and the competitive nature of Ohio, giving Portman a significant advantage in the Lean category overstates his challenge.