A few months ago, Democrats were facing uphill battles in the Ohio races for governor and U.S. Senate. However, recent polls have been more encouraging. A new Quinnipac poll shows Governor Ted Strickland leading Republican John Kasich by 44 percent to 38 percent and both Democratic candidates, Lee Fisher and Jennifer Brunner, narrowly ahead of Republican Rob Portman in the U.S. Senate races, 40-37 and 40-36. Quinnipac was polling registered voters in Ohio, and polls that sample likely voters tend to produce better numbers for Republicans, but as you can see from the Pollster.com chart, several pollsters have found Strickland in a stronger position compared to a few months ago:
It is said that the 2008 Presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain was as much a referendum on George W. Bush's administration, policies, and failures as it was a referendum on either of the major Party nominees. In 2010, for most midterm races, George W. Bush will be a distant memory. However, the race in which George W. Bush and the harmful effects of his agenda will be most front-and-center will be the U.S. Senate race in Ohio.
The Republican nominee is expected to be Rob Portman, who spent twelve years representing Ohio's 2nd Congressional district, in the Cincinnati suburbs. More important on his resume, though, are his two roles in George W. Bush's administration: U.S. Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget. In short, Portman was George W. Bush's trade chief and budget boss; and, perhaps no state has been hurt more by Bush's trade and budget policies than Ohio. In Bush's final year in office, only a small minority of Ohioans (just 26%) approved of Bush's handling of the economy. Rob Portman was one of the chief architects of the Bush economy of which Ohioans so overwhelmingly disapproved, and Ohio voters will have the opportunity to thank Portman for his role.
In January, I offered a thorough look at Portman's close relationship to George W. Bush. From Portman's leadership on CAFTA (which so many Ohio labor unions opposed) to Portman's support for Bush's plan to privatize social security to Portman's intimate role in Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, George W. Bush had fewer sidekicks more loyal than Rob Portman.
I'm glad to see that the Ohio Democratic Party and the DSCC are making the centerpiece of their opposition Portman's close ties to George W. Bush and Portman's role in perpetuating the Bush economy that was so destructive to so many Ohio families.
At RobertPortman.com, the Ohio Democratic Party has put up a website highlighting Portman's leadership role on Bush's failed economic policies. They do a strong job, both textually and visually, of pointing out that Portman is a Bush Republican, and that Bush's policies very much are Portman's policies.
Portman is doing himself no favors in the messaging department when he labels himself the consummate Washington D.C. insider:
In a political world where candidates are falling all over themselves to tout their "outsider" credentials, Rob Portman is a rare exception to the rule.
Portman, a former Congressman and Bush Administration official, is casting himself as a deal-making insider in his campaign for the seat being vacated by Sen. George Voinovich (R) in 2010 -- portraying his resume as just the sort of thing that will help him get things done in Washington.
"I know enough now about where the bodies are buried [and] how the Senate works that I know I can be effective there for Ohio," Portman said during a recent interview with the Fix as part of our "Rising" series.
The DSCC has made Portman's comments and Portman's role as a key George W. Bush sidekick the focal point of a terrific web video, at right.
To ensure that George W. Bush and the harm that his economic policies caused Ohio do not become memories too distant to Ohioans, I'll repeat a suggestion I made back in January:
Can I suggest that, before George W. Bush becomes too distant a memory, the Ohio Democratic Party should print up some simple "Rob Portman = George W. Bush" bumper stickers and circulate them. Cement that message early.
And why stop at bumper stickers? The Ohio Democratic Party or Ohio labor unions should buy some highly visible billboard space and put up the message "Rob Portman: Architect of George W. Bush's Economy" now that the according website is running.
Whether or not George W. Bush is still in office, Rob Portman is very much a George W. Bush Republican, and Bush should serve as an anchor to Portman throughout the campaign if Democrats continue to effectively highlight the extremely close Bush-Portman relationship.
For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.
Republican Senate candidate two-time George W. Bush appointee Rob Portman will no doubt spend the entirety of his Senate campaign running away from George W. Bush and his record. However, that will be awfully difficult given that Portman served as George W. Bush's Trade Representative (May 17, 2005 - May 29, 2006) and Office of Management and Budget Director (May 29, 2006 - June 19, 2007), two key roles on George W. Bush's economic team. Nevertheless, Portman is trying to run from Bush and has been called out for it. I thought an early examination of Portman's relationship to George W. Bush might be in order.
Portman and George W. Bush's Record Budget Deficits
When Bush nominated Portman in April '06 to be his budget director, Portman set clear goals and outlined how to reach those goals:
"Now is not the time to risk losing ground by raising taxes," he said. "Instead we must continue pro-growth policies and tighten our fiscal belts in order to cut the deficit in half by 2009."
How did Portman do in the deficit-slashing department?
The budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2006, when Portman took over as budget director, was about $250 billion. The budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2008, the most recently completed fiscal year, was over $450 billion. Portman's goal was to cut the budget deficit in half. Instead, the budget deficit nearly doubled. That is the legacy of George W. Bush's budget director, Rob Portman.
Mr. President, thank you very much. I am very proud to stand at your side, and I am grateful for you giving me this opportunity to join your Cabinet and promote the bold international trade agenda you just described.
What's the only thing better for the Republicans than running a Bush-appointee in the stead of a retiring GOP Senator who would have more likely than not won reelection in his swing state had he sought another term? Running a two-time Bush-appointee.
Former Republican congressman Rob Portman will announce that he is running for the Senate soon after Ohio Sen. George Voinovich's retirement announcement, according to multiple Republican sources.
Portman would give Senate Republicans an accomplished candidate who is likely to clear the primary field.
"He's great on both policy and politics, and you don't often find that combination," said Hamilton County Republican party chairman Alex Triantafilou. "His experience in government, his experience in Washington and his understanding of Ohio would make him a tremendous force in the Senate."
Portman would likely clear the Republican primary field, with other leading candidates unlikely to challenge him. A strong fundraiser from his days in the House, Portman is expected to have little trouble raising the millions necessary to mount a formidable statewide campaign. (He also has over $1.5 million remaining in his House campaign committee, which he can transfer over for a Senate race.)
While Rob Portman will likely try to run as a former Ohio Congressman, the Democrats shouldn't have too difficult of a time tying him to George W. Bush, particularly considering that the President tapped Portman to serve as United States Trade Representative and Director of the Office of Management and Budget over the last three and a half years. Making the 2010 Ohio Senate election about George W. Bush won't be enough to put the Democrats over the top -- but it's not a bad start. And considering recent Democratic successes in the state (Barack Obama carrying Ohio last fall, the Democrats picking up multiple U.S. House seats in the past two cycles, and Ted Strickland and Sherrod Brown winning the 2006 Governor and Senate elections, respectively), as well as the strong Democratic bench in the state (including Reps. Tim Ryan, Zack Space and Betty Sutton, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, and others), this should be a top-tier race and a tossup.