U.S. Senate: Portman ‘Robs’ Ohio’s senate race
By Alex Brust
Senator Rob Portman sat up straight, hands at his sides, with his neatly combed grey hair glimmering in the light of the room and confidently told the editorial board at The Plain Dealer that he would “continue to work across the aisle” if re-elected. Portman was being humble, to say the least, in leaving his re-election open to question, considering the senator was 12 points ahead of former Governor Ted Strickland in the most recent poll by Baldwin Wallace University.
This fall, Portman has turned Strickland from what people thought would be a worthy adversary to a withering leaf blowing in the wind. This is in large part to Portman taking his campaign very seriously this time around, explained political science professor Colin Swearingen at John Carroll University. Then there are the outside donations from Super PACs like the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity that have loaded Portman’s campaign coffers —as of Sept. 30 he had $24 million compared to Strickland’s $10 million, according to opensecrets.org.
This huge war chest has allowed him to release a series of ads targeting the man Swearingen said has become known as “re-tread Ted” for his lack of success as a one-term governor. Meanwhile, some of Strickland’s major ad buys were pulled by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, starting in early September, as the former governor’s standings in the opinion polls fell, according to Cleveland.com.
Portman has made significant strides in this race, not only with TV ads but also by staying relevant on social media and visiting projects in communities around Ohio, while Strickland has remained quiet in practically every facet of this election, running what Portman’s campaign spokeswoman Michawn Rich described in a statement as “the worst campaign in America.”
Repeated attempts by this reporter to contact Portman’s Cleveland-based campaign and the senator himself produced no response. Even the John Carroll University campus Republicans were unresponsive when contacted to request an interview.
Portman has allowed his track record to speak for itself. His involvement in politics since 1984, when he was George H. W. Bush’s associate counsel, to his first term as a U.S. senator these past six years, shows he has plenty of experience for the job, with the ability to work across the aisle and make things happen on Capitol Hill. He stressed in the Plain Dealer editorial interview that more than 45 of his bills have been made into law.
Portman also has made a point of working with Democrats, such as fellow Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, according to cleveland.com. In fact, one of Portman’s focal points in his campaign, the fight against addiction in Ohio, has involved a bi-partisan attack on the issue with Brown. Both senators have written legislation to assist in the fight against drug addiction in the nation and especially their home state, Ohio, where an article from Cleveland.com explains that if all the junkies lived in one place, it would be the fifth largest city in the state.
With Brown introducing the Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Reduction Act and Portman co-sponsoring the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which became law in July, it’s safe to say that working across the aisle has been working out well for Portman.
Portman hasn’t just worked across the aisle on Capitol Hill. He has won the endorsements of 28 African-American pastors in Ohio, 15 of them from Cleveland. Along with an endorsement from the largest law enforcement union in the state—the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio—Portman also won union endorsements from the United Mine Workers of America, the Ohio Conference of Teamsters and the Local 18 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, according to an article by The Hill. Significantly, all four backed Strickland in his previous runs as governor. But the most stunning Portman endorsement, might just be that of Black Lives Matter in Cuyahoga County.
Although this race has seemed to be easy going for Portman, his endorsement and support of his party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, has caused him grief, especially in light of events such as the video of Trump talking to former “Access Hollywood” host, Billy Bush, about sexually assaulting women. Strickland has been quick to heavily criticize Portman for his endorsement and support of Trump, but Portman rescinded that endorsement in reaction to the “Access Hollywood” video, saying in a recent senatorial debate on C-Span that the video was “the final straw” and the decision was one he did not take lightly because it went against his party.
Portman still defended himself against Strickland’s heavy critique, explaining in the Plain Dealer’s endorsement interview that he has always spoken up when he disagreed with Trump on issues, and going on to criticize Strickland for not speaking up when he disagreed with democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Even though Portman has now said he personally cannot support Trump, he still expressed his respect for Trump’s voters. But he said he intends to do a write-in vote for Trump’s running mate and Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
LeBron James got it done in Cleveland. Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians are not far off. Rob Portman has said “I’d like to think I’m a serious legislator and get things done.” It’s looking like Portman might already have it done in this election, just as Cleveland’s sports teams have been doing lately.