Friday, September 17, 2010

Ohio U.S. Senate Race

Race of the Day

Ohio U.S. Senate

September 17, 2010
46 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Republican

After a lengthy and sustained winning streak in Ohio, Republicans were set back in the state in 2006 and 2008 as Democrats won many key elections. They had their eyes on another prize in the 2010 elections, as moderate Republican Senator George Voinovich had significant problems with the conservative base of his own party, and was deemed as vulnerable to a strong Democrat. Perhaps sensing his vulnerability, the once highly popular Voinovich did not take long to announce he would not be seeking a third term.

Democrats remained just as bullish about challenging for an open seat, as multiple party members had been able to win statewide in 2010. For this contest, the two that emerged were Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner and Lt. Governor Lee Fisher. Brunner was the favorite of many liberals, but had been criticized for an appearance of not being exactly objective as Ohio's chief elections officer in the 2008 Presidential contest. Fisher had more campaign money than Brunner and was thought to maybe be moderately more electable statewide. However, he lost two statewide races in the '90s, including as his party's 1998 Gubernatorial nominee, one of many Democrats in Ohio to do so during that time period. In the May primary, which had grown quite strident, Fisher outpolled Brunner by just over 11 points and captured the nomination.

On the Republican side, a wealthy businessman who was initially seeking the Senate nomination, agreed instead to run for the House of Representatives, which opened a clear path to November for party favorite Rob Portman. He had served 12 years in Congress, rising to a GOP leadership role, but resigned that job to work in the Administration of President George W. Bush, first as Trade Representative and later as Budget Director. He left government service in 2007, but was mentioned at times as a potential Vice Presidential candidate in 2008.

Portman, who had also served in the Administration of the first President Bush, has been considered very close to the Bush family and had the reputation of being Dubya's closest friend in Congress, during the time where Portman served there. Democrats have been focusing on Portman's personal and political ties to President Bush since the beginning of the campaign, hoping that the former President's low poll numbers upon leaving office would tar the GOP Senate candidate by association.

In 2009, when Ohio Democrats were still basking in victory, most polls showed the candidates with a small lead over Portman. By the turn of the year, Portman managed to gain a small lead himself. As the Democrat primary approached, the candidates, who by then were advertising on television, managed to retake a small lead on Portman. Much like the state's Gubernatorial election though, since the beginning of July, Portman has now led in every poll. The attempt to tie Portman to Bush seem to be having less effect than the Republicans efforts in tying Fisher to his former running mate, the state's embattled Governor Ted Strickland, who is trailing in his bid for reelection. The Portman campaign has run ads seeking to hold Fisher accountable for the lack of success in the role he was given to bring jobs to the state.

In the past week, several polls have been released showing Portman ahead. They have ranged from a seven point advantage in a Fox News survey to one out today by Quinnipiac showing the Republican ahead by an insurmountable 55-35 advantage. That is especially noteworthy since that particular polling outfit has long tended to be more favorable to Democrats in Ohio than others. There can be no doubt now that Portman is now the strong favorite, but if the new poll out today is close to being true, this one now looks like it will be called very early on Election Night.

A Portman victory will keep a U.S. Senate seat, which was once in doubt, in Republican hands, but to conservatives, it may represent a bit of an ideological pickup as well.

Portman campaign link:

2010 U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 7 D, 20 R
Predicted U.S. Senate Balance of Power thus far: 47 D, 43 R