Ohio's Portman Problem

We’re still 18 long months from Election Night, but [mc_name name=’Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’P000449′ ] is such a weak candidate that his odds of winning re-election to the Senate barely 50-50. Ohio has voted with the Democrats for the last two presidential elections only to return support to the Republicans in the off-year elections. While Gov. John Kasich won a sub-50% election and then a barely contested re-election in the off-years, [mc_name name=’Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’B000944′ ] easily won in 2012 in a race that should have been closer than it was.

But Rob Portman’s problems do not end with the calendar, they deal with competence and with principles. Portman is known as a fiscal hawk. He appears somewhat regularly on Fox Business and CNBC promoting his fiscal hawkishness. He includes in his fiscal hawk resume his time in the House of Representatives during the Clinton and early Bush years, and also as Bush’s OMB Director. This gives him 25 years of promoting conservative economic policies in Washington DC. If we are to take him at his word that he is a fiscal hawk, and given the direction our country has taken over those years, there is only a single conclusion one can make – Rob Portman is just not good at his job!

Even looking at his term in the Senate, there were a number of spending bills that could have been defeated or stopped or blocked since 2010. Portman has joined [mc_name name=’Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S000148′ ] in bringing the bills to the floor, only to finally join [mc_name name=’Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’L000577′ ] in opposing them. He has also been a swing vote on amnesty, internet sales tax, and nominations (including Loretta Lynch), sometimes waiting until the day of the vote to see whether his vote is needed. He may be allowed to vote for certain unpopular conservative legislation so he can report back successfully to tea party groups, but nobody should be drinking that cocktail anymore. Conservative voters are awake and are frustrated with politicians like Rob Portman.

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows former Gov. Ted Strickland beating Portman by 48-39. That 39% is an awful number for an incumbent, while 48% is quite strong for a challenger. For those of us who remember the 2006 Mike DeWine re-election campaign, there was zero energy for conservatives to come out and vote for DeWine let alone rally others to his side. I sense the same empty feeling with Portman.

If Republicans are going to keep this seat in 2016, then the decision is going to have to come from the Ohio Republican Party or from Rob Portman himself. I don’t see any conservative challenger coming forward. There simply isn’t a Chris McDaniel in Ohio. Conservatives would love to see [mc_name name=’Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’J000289′ ] or Treasurer Josh Mandel in the Senate, and those are two individuals who would rally the base, draw national support, and either of them could defeat Ted Strickland even in a presidential year. Ted Strickland is beatable for a number of reasons, but he can’t be beat with nothing which is exactly what Rob Portman has given to Ohioans. Nothing.

Democrats will choose Ted Strickland because he is familiar to the base and will get national progressive support. Rob Portman does not excite the base and will only get national establishment money. There is actually not a lot of time for a strong Republican Senate candidate to emerge. Otherwise, I fear that Ohio will once again send two Democrat Senators to Washington.