Portman Holds Onto Ohio Senate Seat

Ohio senator is thought to have run one of the better Senate campaigns of the cycle

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has been re-elected to a second term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman has been re-elected to a second term. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted November 8, 2016 at 7:38pm

Sen. Rob Portman will hold onto his Senate seat, defeating former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, the Associated Press projects.

The Associated Press called the race as soon as polling place in Ohio close, indicating Portman likely won re-election easily. Portman had been leading by more than 20 points in recent polls of the race.

The last time the GOP won by a margin this large in an Ohio Senate race was in 2004, when Republican Sen. George Voinovich won re-election by nearly 28 points.

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rated this year’s race as Republican Favored coming into Election Day.

[Portman’s Closing Argument Calls for a ‘Fair Shot’ for Ohio Workers]

Portman was one of the most vulnerable GOP senators at the start of the election cycle. The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s unpopularity threatened his fate down the ballot. But early investment in a strong ground game helped Portman distance himself from the nominee.

As a former statewide elected official with a moderate reputation, national Democratic strategists had high hopes for Strickland. But he failed to raise enough money to compete with the senator and never shook the rust off of his campaign apparatus.

 

[Election Results 2016]

Portman was also one of several Republicans to revoke their support for Trump after a 2005 video showed Trump boasting about groping women. Portman focused on separating his campaign from the presidential contest, highlighting his work across the aisle, particularly his efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and support coal miners.

[At RNC, Portman Keeps Trump at a Distance]

“With a new president and a new Congress, Americans don’t want to just rewind the tape and live through more years of the same tired and self-defeating routine,” Portman will say in his victory speech Tuesday night, according to excerpts of his address.

“They expect better … we are capable of better … and with a fresh start – there will never be a better moment than now to stop the dysfunction in Washington and find that common ground,” Portman will say.

Tuesday night’s victory means Portman will have a second term in the Senate. He was first elected in 2010, garnering more than 56 percent of the vote and besting his Democratic opponent Lee Fisher by roughly 15 points.

Prior to joining the Senate, Portman directed the Office of Management and Budget and served as U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush. He served in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2005. Before joining the House he worked for President George H. W. Bush as legislative affairs director and associate counsel.

Strickland said in a statement that he phoned Portman to congratulate him on his victory. And he made a nod towards Trump, who’s campaign slogan was “Make America Great Again.

“America is great because it is truly a land of opportunity: a country where someone like me who grew up in a working class family can pursue their dreams,” Strickland said.

[Have Senate Republicans Already Avoided a Worst-Case Scenario?]

Ohio has long been regarded a swing state in the presidential election. In 2012, President Barack Obama carried the state with 51 percent of the vote.

[Rating Change in Ohio Senate Race]

The Buckeye State is rebounding from the Great Recession, with an unemployment rate close to the national average of nearly 5 percent. It is part of the so-called Rust Belt, where manufacturing and industrial jobs once dominated the region. Manufacturing is still a leading industry in Ohio, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency, with the state being a top producer of plastics, steel, and automobiles.

Contact Bowman at bridgetbowman@rollcall.com and follow her on Twitter @bridgetbhc.