While the rumors have been swirling for weeks, former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland Wednesday formally announced his intention to challenge Republican Sen. Rob Portman, reported The Cleveland Plain Dealer
"I'm running for the United States Senate in 2016 because I am determined to restore the American Dream for working people in this country. I believe in the American Dream because I've lived it," wrote the 73-year old in an emailed statement.
Talk of a Strickland campaign began to heat up in January when The Vindicator
newspaper reported that he was planning on leaving his position with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a liberal think tank, which he did earlier this month.
The Ohio Republican Party has been waiting for Strickland to make it official and today went live with TedFailedOhio.com, a site designed to document Strickland's "failed" political career.
"Ted failed Ohio. When he was Governor the state lost 350,000 jobs, he drained our state's rainy day fund and created a massive budget hole. Then when he left office he went to Washington, D.C., and became a lobbyist for the liberal special interests, putting their needs above Ohio's," Ohio GOP Chairman Matt Borges told The Plain Dealer.
Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is the only other Democrat to publicly enter the race to unseat Portman.
One of the reasons Republicans have gotten a jump on the 2016 campaign is partly due to a recent poll which shows the freshman Republican with an approval rating below 50 percent.
According to a February survey from Quinnipiac University
, Portman has the approval of 40 percent of Ohioans, and only 37 percent feel he deserves re-election. Conversely, 21 percent disapprove of his job performance and 28 percent do not believe he deserves re-election in 2016.
"U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is 10 points short of the 50 percent job approval mark as he begins his quest for a second term, not a place in which an incumbent likes to be. He falls further behind, to 37 percent, on the more critical question of whether he should get another six-year stretch in Washington, D.C., a number that might interest potential challengers," Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a press release.
Given his approval figures, both party committees have been actively attempting to frame Portman's record to their advantage.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
(DSCC) has seized on the opening afforded to it by the potential of a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security to allege Portman "would rather score political points than actually stop government shutdowns."
The political game "might fool his K Street buddies who are dumping money into his campaign, but Ohioans expect more from their elected officials and will hold Rob Portman accountable in 2016," DSCC press secretary Sadie Weiner added in a Feb. 11 press release.
Republicans, however, are challenging Strickland's image as a fighter for the common man by focusing on his tenure at the liberal Center for American Progress, reports the National Journal
"Republicans, and even some former supporters, have called into question his decades-long record as a moderate, pro-coal, pro-gun Democrat with unusually deep support in certain parts of the state. Strickland spent the past year working for a liberal, Washington-based think tank that advocates for clean energy and stricter gun-control measures."
Portman is getting some support from GOP heavyweights, including former presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
Romney sent out a fundraising email urging supporters to help the former U.S. trade representative fight off Democrats, who "are desperate to take back the U.S. Senate, and they are going to do all they can to defeat Republicans across the country," The Plain Dealer reports
"With the Senate and White House on the line in 2016, Rob will have a target on his back — and we must make sure he has enough resources to counter the inevitable Democrat attacks," he warned.
The extra fundraising assistance may be needed considering the DSCC raised $4.5 million in January, compared to the $2.5 million brought in by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), according to Roll Call
However, the NRSC ended the month with $4 million in cash on hand and $10 million in debt, while the Democratic committee only had $2.6 million on hand and is $15 million in debt.
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