Columbus — Incumbent Republican Sen. Rob Portman has expanded his lead over Democratic challenger Ted Strickland among Ohio voters questioned by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
The Connecticut-based group’s latest poll, released Aug. 11, had Portman on top, 49 percent to 40 percent, over the former governor. That was an increase from 47 percent to 40 percent last month. Portman and Strickland were essentially tied in several earlier polls, though Strickland was ahead, 48 percent to 39 percent, in Quinnipiac’s early polling of the race in April 2015.
Portman also fared better than incumbent Republican senators in two other swing states that were part of the Aug. 11 survey.
“At this stage of the campaign, Republican U.S. Senate candidates may be running against their own presidential nominee, Donald Trump, as much as they are against their Democratic opponents,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a released statement. “In each of the three key swing states, the incumbent U.S. senators seeking re-election are running better than Trump. But if Trump continues to lag behind in the presidential race, that will make it more difficult for GOP candidates, logic holds, up and down the ballot.”
Brown added, “Sen. Rob Portman in Ohio may have a strong enough lead to escape the Trump effect. But Sen. Marco Rubio, who had been considered a big favorite, might be another story in Florida where he is virtually tied with one of his Democratic challengers. And in Pennsylvania, incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey is basically tied with challenger Katie McGinty, while Trump is running 10 points behind Hillary Clinton in the Keystone State.”
Quinnipiac regularly gauges the opinions of voters in Ohio and other swing states on candidates and issues. Its latest poll included 812 Ohio voters, and the results had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
Strickland campaign spokesman David Bergstein downplayed the results, citing other poll results that show the race is “very close.”
But, he added in a released statement, “… What all the polls consistently show is that after Sen. Portman and his allies have spent over $30 million against Ted, they’ve failed to put this race away. Now we’re entering the stage of the campaign where more Ohioans will start learning about the central contrast in this race: Ted is fighting for working people because that’s where he comes from and that’s who he cares about while Sen. Portman is pushing the agenda of his rich and powerful friends at Ohio’s expense. Meanwhile, the national environment is rapidly deteriorating around Portman, he’s engulfed in a daily firestorm about his continued support for Trump, and he’s facing a statewide, coordinated campaign infrastructure with no help from his own top of the ticket.”
Portman spokeswoman Michawn Rich countered in a separate statement, “Momentum continues to grow behind our campaign as we highlight the results Rob is delivering for Ohio families and as we’ve gained multiple union endorsements and contacted over 3 million voters through our unprecedented door-to-door and phone programs. As Ted Strickland faces criticism about his campaign from his own party, more Ohio voters are realizing they can’t afford a return to Ted Strickland’s Ohio when the state lost more than 350,000 jobs and ranked 48th in job creation.”
Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.