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Prospects in Ohio Looking Better for Senate GOP

Former Rep. Rob Portman (R) and Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D) have been engaged in a spirited race for the open Ohio Senate seat since emerging from primaries in May. The contest has long been seen as a tossup, but with the trend lines having shifted toward Portman, CQ Politics is moving the race to the less competitive rating of Leans Republican.

Looking back, the end of June was a turning point in the race. Through the second fundraising quarter, which ended June 30, Portman had nearly $8.9 million in the bank to Fisher's $1.3 million. The cash advantage has allowed Portman to run a handful of statewide TV ads.

Fisher, meanwhile, is scheduled to begin arring his first TV ad on Tuesday, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on Friday. The buy is modest and the ad will air in the Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo and Dayton markets, according to the newspaper report. Fisher has wider name identification than Portman because he has been elected statewide.

The last day in June also marks the last day a poll was released showing Fisher and Portman essentially tied, but with the Democrat slightly ahead. That survey, conducted by Quinnipiac, found Fisher ahead by 2 points, a lead within the survey's margin of error. Since then, multiple polls from Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and Public Policy Polling have found Portman ahead by as much as 9 points and it has grown increasingly hard to see Fisher's path to victory.

The latest poll, released on Thursday, showed Portman ahead of Fisher 45 percent to 38 percent. The survey of 475 likely voters was done by PPP, a Democratic firm, and had a margin of error of 4.5 points. It was taken Aug. 27-29.

That poll showed that a large bloc of Democrats (21 percent) remain undecided in the race. The margin will close once Fisher is up on TV, but he'll need to dramatically make eat into Portman's lead with independent voters to be competitive in November.

Both President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden will travel to the Buckeye State this week. Obama will be in Cleveland on Wednesday to speak on the economy. Biden, who headlined a Cleveland fundraiser for Fisher in June, will be in Toledo for Labor Day.

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